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Thursday, February 27, 2014

FBI and the CDC sitting in a tree

       I honestly don’t know what I’m looking at,” Christie said as she glowered over Taylor Caussyn’s shoulder at the spreadsheet that her Deputy Director was typing away at, “Which is really pathetic, considering that I was the one who wrote this program.”

            Taylor shrugged and scratched at her head absently, making her thick curls stand up, “Well, according to this, the ‘Bronco’ case in Iowa was a random variable: unrelated.”

            “Damn.” Christie’s muscles tensed n anger and she sat down at her desk with a dejected sigh, “So I flew all the way out there and incurred the wrath of the Director all for nothing.”

            “Not for nothing,” Taylor said with a shy smile as she jutted her chin towards the shape of Agent Thomas, who was sitting in an uncomfortable chair by the tiny water cooler, “You picked up an interesting accessory.”

            Thomas gave a sarcastic smile and grunted, “I don’t like this any more than you do. You could have at least given me a chair that didn’t feel like concrete.”

            Christie scowled, “We don’t have a whole lot of resources allocated to us down here, as you can imagine, and what we do have goes towards our tech. Be happy you have a chair at all, Taylor didn’t for the first three months she worked here.”

            Thomas stood up and they could all hear her lower vertebrae cracking as she did so, “What are you working on, anyway?”

            Taylor straightened up like a kid at show-and-tell and she quickly brought up the ARC program on her screen, “This is our program, ARC, or ‘Anomalous Research of Criminology database. It tracks crimes which are seemingly radical and, well, anomalous in order to discern a pattern. At first, we didn’t find anything until we started to pick up a very interesting, if not distinct, impression. We have been trying to not only keep track of these occurrences, but to potentially find the next one and prevent it.”

            “Sort of like that one science fiction movie? The one with that short guy with the squished nose and the weird ass religion?” Thomas asked.

            “Uh, I guess?” Taylor smiled at Thomas, “I don’t get out to see many movies. In fact, I haven’t had a date in ages.”

            Thomas blinked at the random bit of information and Christie snapped, “Taylor, this is not the time to pick up chicks, especially not this one.”

            Taylor flushed, “I wasn’t…”

            Christie interrupted her smoothly, “Why the interest, Agent Thomas?”

            “Well, I was sent here to keep an eye on you, so that is what I am doing. Plus, it is more interesting than sitting on my hands doing nothing.” Taylor snorted and Thomas glared at her, “Oh shut up.”Her cell phone rang and she turned around to answer it, leaving Taylor and Christie to their own devices.

Agent Steele pushed her chair over towards her compatriot’s desk and cleared her throat, “So, Bronco was a dud. Any other hits?”

            Taylor nodded, “Yes, actually. Yesterday, three prostitutes were found in a dumpster not three blocks from here, and from the forensics it looks like they had been dead at least a week. They had the same sort of injuries as these other eight killings across the country.” Taylor pointed to a number of tiny red bullet points that were floating amongst the sea of data on her screen, “The M.O of the killings is the same as fourteen that have happened in this city during the past five years. The method of murder, though, is not singular to those instances, but it seems to be the same as literally hundreds of other killings throughout the last fifteen years.”

            “Wow.” Christie blinked, “There’s no way in hell that is a coincidence.”

            “Exactly.” Taylor cleared her throat and pointed to a bunch of new data that had flooded in as they spoke, “But on a more alarming note, there’s this going on.”

            “What the…?” Christie blinked at the screen; “Seventeen reported deaths in the last hour with another twelve people reported missing?”

            “Either it’s the running of the bulls on a scale that we’ve never seen before, or Liberty Cross, Missouri, just had a natural disaster.”

            Thomas wandered back over, her mouth pressed into a tight line, “The Director wants to speak with us, Agent Steele.”

            “Me?” Christie scowled, “Didn’t I just do my stint in the hot seat?”

            “This isn’t about that, now hurry up.” Thomas picked up her blazer jacket and pulled it on while Christie just blinked at her, “Seriously, get going or I’ll carry you up there.”

            After a short walk and an awkward silence inside the elevator, Christie and Agent Thomas hurried into the Director’s office. Inside, Director Franks was in a heated discussion with three well-dressed men in military-styled uniforms, none of which looked particularly happy to be there.

            Thomas cleared her throat, and Director Franks glanced over at them before he interrupted the man who was making a very vehement point, “Excuse me, gentlemen. These are Agents Steele and Thomas, and they are the ones we have been discussing.”

            Christie gritted her teeth, “Director Franks, you wanted to see me?”

            “Yes. This is Dr. Lee Hollis, Dr. Steven Yeats and Dr. Marvin Goddard: engineer, toxicologist and Public Health Advisor, respectively.” Christie froze at the sound of Steven Yeats’ name, and when she glanced over at the man from the corners of her eyes she saw that he was smiling at her with all of his usual farm-boy charm. Director Franks went on, “These men were gracious enough to come to us from the CDC to discuss a situation that has just arisen.”

            “The one in Missouri?” Christie asked, and the CDC employees all stared at her sharply.

            “I thought that this was supposed to be kept quiet,” Dr. Goddard, the Public Health Advisor who resembled a beached trout, asked with a frown.

            “It has been,” Director Franks looked at Christie with a smug smile, “You tracked the deaths in Liberty Cross through the ARC program, didn’t you?”

            “Yeah,” Christie shrugged, “We saw a sudden influx of deceased or missing persons in the last few hours, it was a little tough not to see.”

            “I asked you here, Agent Steele, because there has been a minor outbreak of an unknown disease in Missouri. The preliminary results that the CDC have gathered have been inconclusive about the reason behind the outbreak, but they have decided that it is most likely being caused by a chemical agent that was intentionally placed in the town’s water supply.”

            “Alright,” Christie nodded, “And you wanted me to see if this incident was linked to any others in our database?”

            Dr. Goddard gave her what Christie assumed was a smile from behind his fat lips and he nodded, “You were right, Director. Her powers of deduction are very impressive.”

            Christie bristled at the patronizing tone in his voice and she growled, “Sir, I developed the ARC program from scratch and have figured out a decisive pattern to crimes that could not have been previously linked. Yes, my deductive powers are impressive.”

            Director Franks failed to hide his smirk, “As I was saying before Agent Steele arrived, I feel that our two departments could benefit from working together on this. I want to send in an agent with you on your next venture into Liberty Cross. That agent will report back to Agent Steele in order to give her access to data in real time so that we can discover who is responsible.”

            Dr. Goddard’s jaw muscles tensed, but it was Dr. Yeats who answered, “I think that would be more than acceptable. I’m leading the next group into Liberty Cross, and I would welcome any insight into this case that would help us figure this whole thing out in time to save the rest of the town.”

            Dr. Goddard shot him an angry glance, but he folded his chubby arms and nodded, “Alright. Do you have an agent in mind?”

            “Yes, I do actually. His name is Agent Hughes, and he has had experience with some very tense situations, I’m sure that you will find him invaluable.” Director Franks looked over at Christie, “I will let you and Mr. Yeats figure out how you two will stay n contact during his stay in Missouri while Misters Goddard and Hollis help me to brief our field agent.”

            Christie tensed up even more but she nodded silently. The Director nodded at her, indicating that she was excused, and so she turned and hurried out of the room with Agent Thomas and Dr. Yeats in tow.

            She stabbed at the button to the elevator angrily, and then folded her arms tightly against her chest as she waited for the car to rise. As she did so, she felt Steven’s eyes boring into the back of her neck intently.

            Agent Thomas cleared her throat, “So…I hear that Missouri is…nice?”

            Dr. Yeats looked at her and flashed her his easy smile, “Yeah, as nice as it can be fore having an outbreak I guess.” he cleared his throat and said gently, “It is good to see you again, Christie.”

            Agent Steele turned around to look at him and shrugged, “It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

            “Three years.” he looked at his feet, “Why didn’t you return my calls?”

            Christie shrugged. The honest answer to his question was that she had been to preoccupied with ARC to really give him much thought. The two of them had spent two years rarely leaving each other’s beds, and Christie could still remember what his sweat tasted like when they had been tangled in each other’s limbs across the floor of her apartment. Then, she had discovered the anomalies in the crimes that she was investigating and all thoughts of the charming Southern CDC toxicologist had evaporated.

Color rushed to her cheeks for a minute before she cleared her throat, “Well…” she was interrupted by the ding of the elevator doors opening and by Agent Thomas quickly changing the conversation back to the weather conditions in the Midwest.


            Taylor stood up from her desk and cracked her knuckles, “Well, it is officially midnight, and I am packing it in.” she looked over to where Agent Thomas had fallen asleep in her uncomfortable office chair and then back to Christie and Dr. Yeats, who were still staring at the computer screen as if waiting for it to speak to them.

            Taylor smacked Agent Thomas in the shoulder and grunted, “I’m heading home. You should probably call it a day too, Christie will probably be here until six in the morning.”

            Thomas yawned, “I’m supposed to keep an eye-“

            “You were asleep, and Christie is not very likely to a hop a plane at this hour.” Taylor smiled at her winningly, “Come on, I’ll buy you a coffee for the ride home?”

            Thomas stood up and winced at the pain that laced through her thoroughly asleep backside, “You know, that sounds wonderful. I’ll take you up on that.” she picked up her blazer and her satchel and followed the tiny tech out to the elevator.

            As the door shut, Christie glanced over at Dr. Yeats, who was struggling to stay awake by tightly gripping the coffee cup in his hand. He looked slightly out of place in his uniform, and since he was built like an underwear model he seemed more like he should be about to strip for a bachelorette party than about to head to the Midwest to battle disease.

            He caught her staring at him and gave her a lopsided smile, “What?”

            “Nothing. I just…” she shrugged, “Sorry I never called you back, Steven. I was working on this, and everything sort of slipped away.”

            “I understand, even if it still sucks.” when he smiled, a faint scar showed on his cheek like an extra dimple, and he scratched at it absently, “You look exactly the same as you did then, by the way.”

            “Oh yeah?” Christie winked, “Do you still have the tattoo on your thigh?”

            “Uh,” he flushed, “Yes. That was one party I never should have gone to.”

            “No, it is cute to have a star tattooed on your hip bone. Very frat girl of you.”

            He laughed, “I’m pretty sure that the tattoo artist said that nautical stars are supposed to get you home safely and since I was on my way to study virology in third world countries I thought that it couldn’t hurt. Also I was so drunk that I didn’t realize that they weren’t stick-ons until the next day.”

            “Didn’t they hurt?”

            Steven snorted, “Probably. That’s how drunk I was.”

            Christie looked over at him from under her eyelashes and cleared her throat, “Can I see it?”

            The CDC man started, “You want to what?”

            She smiled and inched closer, “I just want to see if the tattoo is as ridiculous as I remember.”

            He rolled his eyes and unzipped his coveralls down to his waist.

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