Dr. Carson waded through his paperwork almost distracted. Thanks to his assistant, it was mostly review with a few things requiring his signature. As he worked, his mind wandered to the occurrences up to this point. He took a sip of his coffee and thought of Stephanie. She was quiet after she returned with their coffee. He suspected she was little unnerved by being constantly shadowed by an agent.
The original trial, with the inability to reach a decision, made him suspicious of jury tampering; especially after the political activist and juror were found dead from a lightning strike. Why were they together? Why was the investigation so shoddy? His mind worked through the details and he still didn’t have the information he needed.
The death of the defense attorney was another thing that crossed his mind. The attorney lived a lavish lifestyle and was known to flourish his money. He was, also, known for his grandstanding. The trial was an orgy of media exposure. Every chance allowed found him in front of the camera extolling the virtue and innocence of his client, who was a small time criminal. Where did he get the money? Was the legal representation Pro Bono?
He always felt the judge was easily bought, although the price was high. Who fronted the money? Would he have abused his powers if there had been a conviction?
His thoughts always returned to the young Grainger. How did he fit? He had the last name of a relative of the victim. Why did he have the locket that belonged to the victim? Where did he get the large sum of cash? There were too many pieces missing, but he knew investigating the entire mess was now very dangerous. Besides him, Nick was now in the hospital and whoever interrogated him made every effort they could to cover their tracks, which were now leading to human trafficking.
“Are you ready to go, Doctor?”
Looking up, Dr. Carlson answered: “I’m almost through Eric. I only need to return a few files and place some papers in the out basket.”
Completing his task, Dr. Carlson wrote a quick note for Stephanie, grabbed his jacket and left with Eric.
“Leaving so soon?”
Dr. Carlson turned to find Dr. Cook standing near the exit. For a moment, he thought of unloading on the doctor, but realized it would only waste time.
“I’m feeling a little tired. I’m going to get some rest.”
“Retirement gives you a lot of time to rest.”
Dr. Carlson ignored the comment and left without speaking.
“That guy should be in jail.”
“Maybe not in jail, but he should have been stripped of his license decades ago.”
“I’m a little hungry, Eric. Do we have time to pick up something on the way?”
“Sure, Doc. We’ll hit a drive through and get a burger.”
After they stopped for a burger, Dr. Carlson rode in silence, while he ate. He was still sorting his thoughts, when Eric spoke: “I told Nick we would stop while we were in the neighborhood.”
Dr. Carlson suddenly had a though: “How have you been covering for Nick? He’s been out of touch for over a week.”
“I haven’t said anything. The brass thinks he’s on another bender, like the one took before his divorce.”
“I didn’t know he had a problem.”
“He was upset the entire time, but when he found out she was pregnant, and he wasn’t the father, he went off the deep end. He stayed drunk for almost a month. If he didn’t have so much vacation time accumulated, he’d been fired.”
“What about now? Are they after his job?”
“I don’t know. Nobody’s said anything and I haven’t asked.”
“Are they watching you closely?”
“I think so. I haven’t made a request for a new partner, but I don’t think that will last very long. I expect to have a new smiling face anytime. I’ll have to handle that when it happens.”
They both were silent until they reached the F.B.I. building. When they pulled in Eric told the doctor: “Agent Smith is waiting. He’ll lead us to the examination room.”
“Hello Dr. Carlson; Detective. Here are your temporary badges. Dr. Cho is waiting to see you.”
After a short trip through secure doors, they entered the morgue.
Dr. Carlson was impressed with the examination room. Far better equipped, he realized how primitive his facility would look to the doctor. He did the best with his limited budget, but there was never enough for what bean counters called “toys.”
“I’m pleased to meet you Dr. Cho.”
Dr. Cho was far younger than Dr. Carlson, but older than his assistant. Short and thin, she moved gracefully as she crossed to shake the doctor’s hand.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Dr. Carlson. Your facility and training have led to two of our finest pathologists. They speak highly of you, although they say you can be a little strict.”
Smiling, Dr. Carlson only replied: “I’m pleased to meet you, too.”
“I’m sorry Dr. Carlson, but unexpected directives required an immediate autopsy. I have enough time to review the results we have at this time. “
Dr. Carlson was disappointed. The opportunity to work with other pathologists was rare. Pausing for a moment he spoke: “It sounds like you’re very busy. I’d hate to impose at this time.”
“It’s all unexpected. Our case load was steady, but now somebody upstairs decided we needed to review results from other locations.”
Dr. Carlson had a strange feeling about the unexpected change. He pushed the feeling aside and commented: “If you can take the time, I’d really like to review what you have at this time.”
Dr. Cho smiled and replied: “Up to a few hours ago, I had planned most of the afternoon to your visit. I’m afraid that time is now delegated to other tasks, but I will work late, if required, to insure I have some time for you.”
“I’m honored. I promise not to take too much of your time.”
Eric intruded for a moment: “It’s not that I’m not interested, but I’m thinking it will all be over my head. I have some things I need to discuss with Aaron, so come find me when you’re through.”
Over the next hour, the doctors reviewed the results. As suspected, the death was meant to appear as a drug overdose, but chemical analysis revealed more.
“As you can see, this is another murder like the others, but his one is different. Since I pushed for the lab results, this was unexpected, but I’m glad we found it.”
Dr. Carlson examined the chemical for a few moments, before realizing what it was.
“Exactly; I’m thinking this victim was either suspected of being uncooperative or they didn’t have enough time.
“Dr. Carlson, I’m really pressed for time, but I can print this, if you’d like it for review.”
“Please. I’m sorry I took so much of your time.”
“It was far from wasted time and I have a feeling you’ll need this more than us.”
Confused, Dr. Carlson replied: “I don’t understand.”
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know when we’re prying where we aren’t meant to pry.”
Dr. Carlson had to think about the reply for a moment. When the implications finally hit, his first reaction was anger. He was already dealing with local officials that seemed to be hiding something. The thought of political pressure at this level to hide criminal activity was infuriating.
“I might need some help under the table.”
“I’ll do what I can do, but I can’t promise anything.”
Looking at her computer, Dr. Cho remarked: “This is strange”
Before Dr. Carlson could respond, Dr. Cho’s printer started printing blank sheets of paper. Although she tried to press different keys, the printer kept printing until the tray was empty.
Staring at her computer, Dr. Cho remarked: “I’ve never seen that happen and this error message is bizarre.”
Before Dr. Carlson could examine the screen, Dr. Cho added: “And the computer is now shutting down”
Pausing for a few moments, Dr. Cho suddenly remarked: “I think I might have lost my entire report.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was in a hurry and I don’t think I saved a copy. That was a lot of work, and I’ll have to start over again”
Dr. Carson digested the information and replied: “Don’t worry. I can get a copy later.”
Dr. Cho, flustered by the event immediately picked up her phone, dialed a number and spoke to Dr. Carlson: “I’ll call Steve in I.T.; he may have a solution.”
A few moments passed before someone answered. Dr. Cho immediately started: “Hello Steve? I’m having a problem...Yes, it’s down and it did some…” she paused and listened for a moment before she replied: “Okay, I’ll wait in line.”
Hanging up the telephone, she looked at Dr. Carlson and said: “The entire network is down and they have no idea what went wrong.
Dr. Carlson had a premonition and responded: “When you start your report again, be concise, don’t vary from anything but suspecting an accidental drug overdose and embellish the fact that Ketamine is sometimes used as a recreational drug. The sodium hypochlorite can be explained as residual from cleaning a syringe for multiple uses. “
Surprised, Dr. Cho replied: “I have to know why you want me to change my report.”
“It would take hours to explain what’s happened in the last few weeks, but prying further into this investigation may be dangerous. Too many have already been hurt and I don’t want you to be another.”
Dr. Cho examined Dr. Carlson’s face for a few moments and responded: “You’ll have to take some time to explain this when it’s all over.”
“I can only hope it will end some day.”
Dr. Cho smiled weakly and stood: “I have a lot of things to do and it looks like it will be more difficult than usual. I’ll show you out”
They walked to the door, Dr. Cho pulled her badge through the reader, and nothing happened.
“I guess the security system is down, too.”
Dr. Carlson took his visitor badge, pulled it through the reader and the door opened.
“It’s not supposed to do that.”
“Maybe so, but it’s no stranger than many other things that happened.”
As they passed to the entrance foyer, they met Eric and Aaron.
Eric spoke first: “Their security system is screwed up, so we’ve been asked to leave.”
Dr. Cho, looking at Aaron remarked: “The strangest thing just happened with my computer.”
“Me too; I had an error message and the damn thing shut down.”
Dr. Carlson glanced at Eric and spoke: “We need to hurry. I’d like to spend as much time with Nick as possible.”As they walked to the parking lot, Eric related his discussion with Aaron. Dr. Carlson listened and commented when he finished: "So, we're losing most of our F.B.I. help?
That's the way I read it. Their director is pushing for them to focus more on another investigation and stop using so many resources on ours."
"We need to hurry Eric. I'm beginning to wonder if we have any time."