After calling the desk sergeant for the address, I pull up to Nick Black’s condo. It’s at an unobtrusive apartment complex with freestanding and duplex residences. The financial connection might be one to follow up on. Why would a kid with a father like William Black be living in a place like this? Many questions and no answers.
It would explain why he’d be working for a black market animal… whatever. But there must be another reason for him to be there? Maybe he was there to test his chemicals. Still, why does it feel like Briggston and Grigory are in cahoots against Nick?
Nick lives in an upstairs apartment, causing an insurmountable problem. If he lived in a house like mine, I could go around the back, get in, and poke around. But his front door faces a courtyard which dozens of windows and doors also look out upon. There’s window, so I go up to peek in.
Nick’s father’s place was pristine, and this man is a scientist of sorts, so I’m expecting at least an orderly home. Instead, I see a mess. I look closer. I take a second to register what I’m seeing—it’s not a normal mess. Then I check the lock.
Yep. The doorframe is snapped.
I call it in. “This is Selma Eddie two. I need to report a break-in.” I detail my position, relieved. At least with a break-in we can see what’s out in the open, and this crime makes anything we find probable cause for a more detailed search warrant. If he’s up to anything here, we’ll find it.
A couple minutes later, back-up arrives and we go in.
I know what I’m looking for and find it. It’s a two bedroom place. One is a room with one person’s possessions there. He lives alone. The other room is a lab. Again, I back away, not wanting to touch things — to keep that chemical from turning my body into mush. I warn the police and call Sergeant Boice.
“Reynolds, get in here immediately. Whatever you’ve been up to, you need to log in and debrief the team.” A few minutes later, I’m face to face with my boss.
“I have a million questions about what you’re doing—off the clock or on, and why you’d send me on a wild goose chase to Briggston’s house. But we’ll hash that out later. Your team has been waiting almost twenty-four hours to debrief with you. Let’s get in there.”
True, I missed checking Jamie’s crime scene yesterday, and I missed this morning’s meeting. But I have information they need, too.
Sarge sends me to the front to run the meeting. I grab a pen and write on the board.
Persons of Interest:
In my head, I include Grigory.
“Ivan,” Susan calls out.
“Briggston’s first name.”
I add that, then I write,
“What have we found?”
Noah Black’s crime scene:
Manuel Diego explains the chemical makeup of the burn on the piano and carpet. He summarizes it with, “unknown source of heat.” I ask him about the sulfur smell in the room and learn both crime scenes had that same odor.
“Was it connected with the burning agent?”
“It’s possible,” Manuel says. “Sulfuric acid and nitric acid have a similar scent, both are toxic and caustic. But the bodies smelled of hydrogen sulfide. We’re still looking for a connection. We’ve outsourced the chemical analysis since it’s beyond the abilities of our lab.”
I write the chemical names on the board.
“And what about the secret passageway?”
“None,” Susan replies.
“Impossible. It’s got to be there somewhere.”
“We disassembled the bookshelves to the concrete and did a portable x-ray of the walls and floor. We checked both the piano room and the library, Tim. There’s no passageway.”
“Then how did the killer get out? Who took Jamie or how did she get home?”
Susan shakes her head.
“What if we’re looking at this all wrong? What if this really is a suicide pact?”
I don’t see it but still ask her to expound on her theory.
“Let’s say Jamie and Noah realize they’re pregnant. They know their parents won’t be happy about it. For some reason, they’re against abortion. So they decide to stay together as a family and frame the people who kept them apart.”
“Romeo and Juliet?”
“Right, so they do what? We don’t know what caused the death,” Manuel says.
I don’t believe it’s suicide. “What if the syringe Nick was swinging at Ivan Briggston was the same thing that killed the kids? If it’s the same agent, that means Nick could be involved. We know Noah had psychotic issues. Maybe Nick does, too.”
Boice crosses his arms. “You spoke with him, Tim. Did he sound paranoid? Unreasonable?”
“When he jumped in the car, he was looking behind him, saying Briggston was after him. He held me at gunpoint, for goodness’ sake.”
“But he didn’t shoot you.”
“No. He didn’t even have the safety off. I figured he was just scared. I told him if he put the gun in the back I’d keep him safe.”
“And he threw it in the back?”
I nod. Sarge’s questions are on-point.
“Sounds reasonable, not beside himself.”
I have to agree.
“So the agent may or may not be in the lab at Nick Black’s house. We’ll find out soon enough. What else do we have?”
The bathrobe tie
Clothes that smell like sulfur.
“Wait a minute.” Susan shifts through some of her papers. “That bathrobe tie was red, right?” She hands me the picture of it and I tape it to the white board.
“There were some of red thread on Jamie Lewis’s bracelet.” She motions for Louise to give a photo from Jamie’s file.
I add that one to the board, and pins and needles run down my arm.
“Did you confirm a match?”
“Not yet,” Louise opens her folder and flips through the pages. “They’ve been trying to identify the DNA in the room, match it to Noah’s crime scene.”
“We honestly didn’t think the bathrobe tie was out of place in a laundry room.” Susan shrugs apologetically.
“Everything unusual is out of place, Susan. You should know that.”
Jamie Lewis’s crime scene:
Bracelet with red thread.
“So we need to know if that is a match. I suspect it is.”
“Except we all saw that William Black had his bathrobe tied when we were at the crime scene.” Susan studies her pages, as if to beg for meaning to come. “He could have a second tie.”
“How would that work? When would he have gotten the tie?” I hesitate to mention the strange disappearing bathrobe tie, because it happened after we logged the laundry room tie as evidence.
I scribble in three more columns. Here’s where I have much information they need.
Then next to the Person’s of Interest list, I add:
We turn to the door, and Officer Smith pokes his head in. “Just wanted to let you know Nick Black woke up.”
“Do not leave him alone,” I emphasize. Smith leaves, and I pull together the papers we now have in the center of the table.
“No, Reynolds. I know you want to get over there, but let’s finish this up first.” My sergeant can be pretty persuasive, and he’s blocking the door.
The red thread on Jamie’s bracelet might be only one of a series of clues that unravel this knot. He’s probably right. We should finish up our analysis and finally pool our thoughts to get a finalized profile to ID our killer.
And yet… I need to get to Nick before he’s released, and before he lawyers up, which he will do the second he learns we’ve seen his lab. He said he knew who killed his brother. I need to get to him pronto or I’ll never hear what he has to say.
Finish the meeting
Go to the hospital immediately