Oct. 15 – 3:00am
“Should we move her to one of the guest bedrooms?” al-Zahir asked as he moved closer to the desk so they could speak without waking Alex.
“No,” Erik watched the girl as she slept. She looked even younger, if that were possible, and a lot more vulnerable. “If she awakens early, I don’t want a screaming female on my hands due to her not knowing where she is.” He reluctantly turned his attention back to the detective. “What have you left out?” al-Zahir handed over several photographs taken of the crime scene.
“The bedroom where we found the body was pretty much destroyed. I’m not sure if there was a true struggle or if it’d been staged.” Devereaux nodded while flipping through the pictures. “The kid had been shot multiple times in painful, but not fatal, areas: ankles, knees, shoulders, groin, with a final one to his head. I’m waiting on ballistics to confirm my suspicions but I don’t think they were all made with the same weapon. Also, the angles of entry and exit are too clean, too straight to be the result of fighting over a weapon.
“As you can see, the entire house has been ransacked; furniture overturned, books knocked off shelves, pots and dishes pulled out of cupboards. It’s too thorough and too destructive for just a random home invasion. Most petty criminals are a pretty cowardly lot and wouldn’t have risked that much noise in an apartment complex like that.” Erik nodded again as he placed the photographs on his desk, his eyes drifting to Alex once more before refocusing on his friend.
“Anything else, Da’ud?” Like al-Zahir, he didn’t believe it to be a random burglary. Whoever it was had been looking for something and Samuel had either gotten in the way or was one of the primary targets.
“Just this,” the detective reached into his pocket, pulled out a final photo of the crime scene, and handed it to Erik. The only response from the masked man was the tightening of his fingers on the glass until it shattered in his hand. The photo showed the victim lying in a pool of blood; wedged between his teeth was a single white rose.
“Christine.” Erik’s voice was flat, emotionless, and that unnerved al-Zahir more than if he’d ranted, screamed, or cried. Nothing flickered in the golden eyes when the detective handed him a handkerchief with which to wrap his bleeding fingers.
“Either her or someone who knows her methods and calling card. I still have some of my old contacts in the Agency and, if I can find the machine the boy was using, they may be able to tell me what was found.”
“Don’t involve anyone else unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Erik tossed the photo at the others on his desk and stood. “I’ll go to the apartment to see what’s been missed; stay with the girl and make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid.” He started for the side entrance into the garage, throwing instructions over his shoulder. Al-Zahir sighed at the loss of his own bed this night but followed Erik to the door. “I should be back before she awakens but if I’m not, give her free reign of the house and encourage the child to eat. If we have to abandon the house, I want her able to keep up with me.” The detective shook his head with a bemused chuckle as he closed the door. Most trained agents couldn’t keep up with Le Fantôme much less a grieving girl with no training. Returning to the Library, he secured the photographs in the main drawer of the desk and selected a book to pass the time until either Alex awakened or Erik returned.
Oct. 15 – 4:45am
Erik arrived shortly before dawn and drove past the complex for a quick outdoor recon. Identifying a few possible sentries, he parked in the half-full lot of a sports bar around the corner and grabbed a few necessary supplies from the trunk of the car. Blending into the shadows, he silently made his way up to the Roberts’ apartment building to further analyze the potential sentries. If there hadn’t been some sort of guard or watchman, Devereaux would have ruled out his former partner. She wouldn’t be so lax; he hadn’t trained her to be.
He picked out the police detective almost immediately with a shake of his head. He’d have to talk to Da’ud about the reprehensible methods the police used for staking out a building. If he were any more obvious, he’d be in a patrol car. Dismissing the officer, his eyes moved to the other two he’d spotted earlier. Erik remained in the shadows for nearly thirty minutes before he was satisfied he knew their routine. One was being far too obvious, so that made him a decoy who was either a rookie or otherwise expendable. The other was quite skilled but he’d been trained by Christine. It’s hard for a student to train another to beat the teacher. Satisfied, Erik waited until all three were either occupied or distracted before he slipped into the building, silent as a ghost.
Standing outside the Roberts’ door, he was appalled by its pathetic lock; he probably could have picked it when he was nine. He quickly entered the apartment and shut the door quietly behind him. It wouldn’t do for the neighbors to investigate or call that wretched policeman who waited outside. Locking the door behind him, Erik surveyed the damage as well as potential hiding places before advancing into the room. If he were watching the building, he’d have at least one man on the inside waiting for someone like him.
The lasso slid along his fingers like an old lover as he prowled silently throughout the small apartment. He checked every closet, under every bed, even in the kitchen cupboards but found himself alone. It was too easy and that made him suspicious. He made one more sweep even more cautiously than before, changing directions several times to try to catch anyone who might be following just out of sight. Once again, he found no trace of anyone having been here other than the crime lab and the coroner’s men. Regardless, he remained on high alert while he methodically checked every room for anything that might have been missed before. He bagged a few items before opening a window and scaling the back wall down to the alley below. He was on the road back to the Estate before the morning rush hour.