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by John L. Morgan III
Part 2 of 4

Last issue: in brief, Jamie and Mike got on a plane to Rhode Island to track down a serial-killing omega.

"Hello, I'm Henry Picker, the junior FBI agent assigned to this case." Jamie and Mike smiled weakly at him. He was a large, thick-necked man a little under six feet tall, with close-cropped brown hair and a deep, somewhat unfriendly voice. His handshake was firm.

Ed and Teresa had gotten off the plane with Mike and Jamie and immediately walked over to a waiting car and driven away. A few minutes later Agent Picker had walked up to them.

"I've been told to address you as Surge and Tracker," he paused, and Jamie and Mike were silent.

Scowling, Henry continued, "The car's in the parking lot. They wouldn't let me drive up on the tarmac, even though we're in a hurry," Henry said with a tone of resentment. Not waiting for a response from the two omegas, he turned and walked off towards the lot. Jamie and Mike looked at each other and then followed behind him, weighed down by the cases containing their equipment and weaponry.

Overhead, dark clouds swelled and echoed distant thunder.

Henry Picker was speeding down country roads at over eighty miles an hour. Mike was unsuccessful in hiding his discomfort.

"I'm sorry if I'm going a little fast for you," Henry said without sincerity, "but when there's a fresh crime scene time is of the essence."

"Our health and survival are of the essence if you expect us to arrive in one piece," Mike said quietly.

Henry grinned and didn't slow down.

"So what's the deal with the latest death?" Jamie asked from the back seat.

"The deal?" Henry asked, raising his eyebrow.

Jamie sensed he was deliberately being difficult. "What have you observed?" she asked slowly and emphatically.

Henry squinted at something in the countryside, and answered disinterestedly, "Subject is a white male, 32, body largely undamaged."

"A male?" Mike asked in surprise.

Before Henry could respond, Jamie, the image of the handprint strong in her mind, asked, "Have you found the point of contact?"

Henry was quiet for a moment. "We had yet to locate it when I left, but I'm sure Agent Weller will have by now."

"Is Agent Weller the senior FBI agent assigned to this case?" Mike asked, and Henry nodded affirmatively.

"It seems odd that this victim would be a male," Mike mused. "Was he sexually assaulted?"

Jamie exhaled sharply, and Henry, hearing her, rolled his eyes. "We had found no evidence of that when I left the scene," he said.

Mike made a "hmm" noise, and looked out the window at the passing country. The three rode the rest of the journey in silence.

A young policewoman who introduced herself as Dee Bennett met them outside the apartment complex where the eighth victim had lived and, today, died. She was a local officer, and had been the first official both here and at the scene of the first victim, who was also killed in Cadence. She seemed upset by the crime, but was nice and accommodating. Jamie instantly liked her.

Dee led them to apartment 2C on the second floor, telling them as they went how disturbed the town was by the murders. "I know everyone always has this sense of New England being a spooky place, but it's actually real quiet and safe here," she said as she peeled the police tape off one side of the door frame and gestured Jamie, Mike, and Henry into the apartment.

The apartment's living room was sparsely furnished, and the walls had no posters to cover their mildew stains. There were two doors, one wide open and leading into a large bathroom, the other slightly ajar. Jamie surmised it was the bedroom. She glanced at Mike, who seemed distracted. He was looking around the room, focusing on details and then glancing away once he'd catalogued them. He stared at the grimy couch and the television-VCR combination in front of it, and looked to the bedroom door just as it opened and a young woman with a hard face and curly black hair walked through it. Her stride was determined, and for a moment Jamie thought she was going to walk right into Mike, when she stopped abruptly, crossed her arms, and said, "Well, well. The two omegas."

Mike tentatively reached his hand out. "I'm Tracker."

Jamie made a half-hearted wave and said, "Surge."

The woman ignored Mike's hand and barked, "Karen Weller. The one in charge." Behind Jamie and Mike, Henry grunted his assent to her assertion. Karen smiled and nodded, staring at him through Jamie, and then she turned and swiftly walked back to the bedroom. "Luckily you two are late. It gave me time to go over the crime scene before you could contaminate it."

Jamie looked at Mike, who glanced back at her. "Is this woman for real?" Jamie thought. "We've just met her and already she's tearing into us." She and Mike followed Karen, Henry and Dee trailing them. The bedroom was like the living room before it: sparse and dirty in a vague way. There was a dresser near the door with a lamp on it, and at the far end of the room, underneath the window, a mattress was laid flat on the floor. On the mattress, naked, was the pale corpse of a young man in his late twenties. Above him, outside the window, a grey sky tumbled over a forest of dark green, spotted with the yellow of leaves preparing to fall.

Karen announced, "Paul Trumbell, 29. He worked at the docks in town, unloading crates from ships into a warehouse there. Of course, he won't be doing that anymore now that he's been fatally electrocuted." Paul's eyes were closed and he looked peaceful, as if asleep, but something about the limpness of his posture and the whiteness of his skin indicated to Jamie that he was dead. His body was laid down straight except for his arms, which were crossed on his chest like those of an egyptian pharaoh. Jamie stared at the body, unnerved by the peace and stillness of the room. Then she realized what was missing. "There's no smell," she said, turning to Mike.

"There are lots of smells," he responded. "But if you mean the body, it smells burnt, but barely. As if the exact minimum of electricity necessary to kill him was used."

Karen was peering at Mike. Her face showed her skepticism.

Jamie turned to her. "How do you know he was electrocuted?"

Karen looked out the window. After a moment she said, "We're not sure, but the medical examiner pronounced cause of death as paralysis of the heart muscle, consistent with electrocution and with the serial murders we're investigating."

Mike crouched down next to the body. Karen watched his movements closely, as if she were protecting the body. "He was definitely electrocuted," Mike said.

Karen scowled. "How could you-"

"Who discovered the body?" Mike interrupted.

"There was an anonymous tip," Dee said, her cheery voice sounding out of place in the quiet room. "At the police station."

"We think it might have been the killer," Henry said, and Karen glared at him. Jamie saw the look, and thought, "It's going to be an uphill battle to get these FBI agents to tell us anything."

Everyone was silent for a moment, and Jamie looked over at Paul. While his pose was peaceful, his mouth held the hint of a smirk.

Karen clapped her hands together, loudly and obnoxiously. "Well, Surge and Tracker," she said, spitting their names, "If your examination of the crime scene is finished, we have to release the body to forensics." Mike leaned back from Paul as Karen continued, and glanced around the room as Jamie watched him. "The medical examiner has been bitching me out for letting the body sit here so long," Karen said. "It's probably illegal, but my superiors demanded that I alter as little as possible until the two omegas could Œthoroughly examine the crime scene.' As you both have so impressively done."

She paused in her diatribe, and was about to say something to Henry when Mike announced, his voice unnerving Jamie, "There's someone here."

Dee immediately pulled out her gun and looked into the living room. "Where-" she said, and stopped as the clip dropped out of the bottom of her gun. Bullets clacked loudly against the wood board floor. Karen and Henry rolled their eyes in unison, while Jamie noticed Dee's look of concern and confusion. She also saw that Mike was looking at Dee in concentration.

"I'm... oh jeez," Dee said, and she crouched down and began to gather up her ammunition. Karen gave a rough, quick laugh, and Jamie frowned at her. "Here, I'll help you," she said to Dee and crouched down next to her. Dee smiled at her in gratitude. As Jamie chased a bullet into the living room, she yelled to Mike "What did you sense?"

"There was someone here, but they're gone now."

Karen snorted, and then announced, "I've had enough of parlor tricks and policewomen who don't know how to handle their guns. Henry, give me the phone."

Henry punched in a number and then handed her the cellular. "Carey," she said into it, addressing the medical examiner, "Sorry to keep you waiting. The body-"

"I'm not finished yet," Mike suddenly yelled, harshly and powerfully.

Karen stared at him with wide eyes, clicked the phone off, and slammed down its antennae. "Fine," she said coolly. "I'll stand right here until you are."

Mike ignored her and glanced around the room again. He looked at Paul's body and said, "It's odd that he would be laid out so neatly while the other bodies were just left where they fell." No one said anything. "And, of course, he's a male," Mike continued.

"Who can say what goes on in these killers' minds," Karen remarked indifferently.

Without looking at her, Mike responded drolly, "An odd thing to hear from a behavioral scientist for the FBI." He crouched down next to Paul's body and stared at his head for a moment. "I'm going to touch him," he said.

"Don't you dare," Karen said, but Mike had already laid his hand on Paul's forehead. Karen looked out the window and blew air out of her mouth. She was tapping her foot, and Jamie desperately wanted to ask her to stop.

Mike's eyes were closed and he seemed to be resting his weight on Paul's head. Then suddenly he pulled his hand away, opened his eyes, and met Jamie's gaze. "This man was an omega," he announced.

"What?" Karen exclaimed, her eyes wide. "That's ridiculous!"

Jamie stared at her partner, and they both ignored Karen. Jamie glanced at Paul's face. That strange half-smile. As if he died thinking of some malevolent secret...

She turned to Mike in surprise. "You don't think he-" she began, but stopped when Mike raised his right hand for silence.

He was staring at the body, at Dee and her gun. He moved to the center of the bedroom and looked through the door. Jamie heard him mutter the words "electricity" and "presence." She hoped he finished soon, because she could tell Karen was about to lose it.

Mike turned and took a step forward, so that he was standing directly in front of Karen, facing her. "Not only was this man an omega," he said heavily, "but he was also the killer."

Karen met his eyes. Everyone was silent. Then, her eyes locked onto Mike's, she lifted the phone up, pushed the quick dial button, and said into it, "Carey, sorry about the call just now. The body's ready for pickup. See you soon." She hung up and walked out to the living room. Henry glanced at Mike, squinting angrily, and followed his boss.

Jamie stared at Mike in alarm. "Are they just going to ignore us?" she asked him. Behind her, Dee raised her eyebrows in concern. Mike frowned and strode after the FBI agents.

"That's why he's the only male," Mike said, more plaintively than he would have liked, as he entered the living room. "That's why he's the only body that's laid out, the only one whose killing is ritualized."

Karen was pulling some papers and a notebook out of her bag as she responded, "I think you'll agree, Tracker," again spitting out Mike's code name, "that there are a number of other, more likely explanations."

"Yes, but the explanation that's actually the truth is Paul Trumbell was an omega killer who committed suicide today, probably after calling the police."

Karen leafed through her notes and did not respond. Mike strode up to her angrily. "Are you even listening to me? I thought you were ordered to cooperate with us."

Instantly, Henry was standing over Mike. He laid a beefy hand on Mike's shoulder and Jamie saw her partner flinch. "Agent Weller is consulting her notes," Henry said, his deep voice and slow speech adding a threatening tone to the sentence.

Jamie, sensing that Mike was about to buckle, said loudly, "Well, maybe she should try consulting us. That's why we're here."

Karen glared at her piercingly. "You are here," she said slowly, "because our superiors believe that somehow two inexperienced, civilian omegas will help us track down a murderer. I think your performance so far indicates the absurdity of that conceit."

Jamie started to interrupt her, but Karen raised her voice and continued, "Carey, the medical examiner, has found no evidence that Paul Trumbell was an omega." Her eyes flicked to Mike and then back to Jamie. "Your partner's intuition can hardly be considered evidence, and the idea that he is the killer is completely unsubstantiated, not to mention idiotic." Karen was lecturing now, treating Jamie like a child. "If Paul Trumbell was the killer and has committed suicide, that's great, because there will be no more murders and eventually we can all go home. But based on the highly subjective and questionable nature of the evidence, it is my job to disregard your conclusions and act as if the killer were still at large. I'm sorry if I seem impatient or unaccommodating, but your inexperience is severely distracting and your contributions, as far as I see it, will only get in the way of my investigation."

The room was silent. Jamie knew that while Karen was somewhat justified, that did not excuse her for being so harsh. Jamie also knew that Mike would never have asserted that Paul was the omega killer unless he was sure. As she looked at him now, she could see he was extremely frustrated. Mike returned her glance, and for a moment everyone was still in the dusty living room, listening to the distant thunder. It was getting nearer.

The harsh static of Dee's police intercom broke the peace. The policewoman smiled uneasily at everyone as she pulled it off her belt, and then went into the bedroom to answer it. Jamie watched Dee stare at the body for a moment and then turn her back to it as she spoke and listened to a police lingo Jamie didn't understand.

Karen said "Henry will drop you two off at the car rental agency, and then we'll meet up with you tonight at the hotel, per our orders."

Jamie was surprised that she wasn't angry. She was simply upset, disturbed at the memories the town of Cadence was reminding her of, and disgusted by the thought of the killer, whether he was Paul or not.

Dee walked back into the living room and said, "I have to go check out a disturbance. If you all need me for anything else, just call the station, OK?" When Karen failed to even look at her, Jamie smiled at the policewoman and nodded. Dee warmly returned her gesture and then left.

"Come on," Henry said gruffly, and physically pushed Mike along. Mike said nothing and walked ahead of the FBI agent out of the apartment. Jamie, frowning, followed the two men. As she left the apartment she could feel Karen smirking at their backs.

Jamie held on to herself and stared at the dark clouds that hovered over Cadence. They were holding in their rain, but looked as if they could drop their waters down at any moment. A few feet away Mike was making the arrangements to rent a car. The trip to the agency had disturbed Jamie, the houses they had passed reminded her of the one she had grown up in decades ago.

Mike walked up to her. "We're off," he said.

They walked outside to where Henry was leaning against his car. He watched them approach and when they got closer he asked, like a father dropping off some teenagers, "All set?"

"Yes, thanks," Mike said.

Henry smiled sardonically and got into his car. Mike starting walking over to the lot but Jamie didn't move, and after Henry started his car she shouted to him, "Where are you going now?"

Henry looked over at her and she could feel Mike turn behind her to hear the FBI agent's answer. "Agent Weller and I are going to supervise the autopsy of the body," Henry said.

Jamie felt the anger she had earlier suppressed surge up in her. "Shouldn't we be there too?"

Henry grinned and said "No." Then he shifted gears and drove off.

Jamie stood watching the car speed down the road. The wind of the storm picked up her hair and blew it around her face. "What an asshole," she said.

"Let's just go to the hotel," Mike said behind her. She turned and followed him to the rental car.

"Gerald? It's Tracker," Mike said into the phone. He paused. "Yes, well, the latest victim was a male named Paul Trumbell. They found him in his apartment, apparently there was an anonymous call to the police station. There actually wasn't that much physical evidence, but I..." Mike hesitated.

"Tell him," Jamie said. She was lying on the bed in Mike's hotel room, watching him.

Mike looked at her, and then said into the phone, "I'm pretty sure he was the killer." He paused, listening to Gerald again. "Yes, suicide." Another pause. "His body was electrocuted, but in a way that he had caused. I'm sure of that, and I'm also sure he was a triggered omega." Pause. "I saw him with the other victims. There was definitely something deeply wrong with him. And while we were there-" Mike paused. "Hold on Gerald, there's someone on the other line. I'll be back in a second."

Mike pushed a button on the phone and then answered, "Tracker." He listened for a few moments while Jamie stared at him. His face was impassive, but she could tell that he was stifling a reaction. She sat up with the realization that something had happened. Mike said, "Yes" and "Of course," and hung up. Jamie stared at her partner as he slowly turned and met her gaze.

"You remember Dee Bennett?"

Jamie nodded. "The policewoman we met at the crime scene," she said.

Mike paused and lowered his eyes to the carpeted floor of the hotel room.

"She's been killed," he said.

Jamie felt her stomach drop down beneath her.

Mike sat down on the bed next to Jamie. He stared at the blank wall, and said slowly, "She was electrocuted."

The sound of drops falling against the roof and walls pierced the silence that followed. It had finally begun to rain.

Next: While Mike's new theory about the killer brings him into conflict with the FBI agents, Jamie's confused feelings for her father lead her into danger.

Copyright 1996 John L. Morgan III

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