reposting; originals lost in blog relocation 2018
Alias | BOLO | Clueless | Detain | Encryption | Forensics | GUILTY! |
Hearsay | Interpol | Jurisdiction | Kickbacks | Liability |
Missing Person | N.O.K. | O Positively | Premeditated | Questions |
Retribution | Sting! | Trust | Undercover Rabbit | Vindicate |
Witness | Xpired | You Only Live Once | Z | After Z
(He wasn’t believing me.).
“Tell me, again, Mister Rabbit: where were you on the night in question?”
“Which night was that, Detective Lauer?”
“The one in question,” he repeated.
“WHERE IS NOSTALGIA?!?” he fumed.
“Oh, *that* question! I already told you — weren’t you listening? I have no idea where she is! We had an argument. She got mad, I got mad. She said that I didn’t value her assistance and stormed out.”
“So, you are saying that she left the house?”
I nodded while he scribbled again into his notepad.
“As your assistant, what does she do?”
“Do? Anything and everything,” I began
“So she is very good at what she does?” Lauer commented.
“If it suits her means,” I finished.
The detective looked up from his notes with a raised eyebrow. “Would you elaborate, Sir?”
“Nostalgia discovered genealogy about four years ago, became environmentally-friendly last year, and recently decided that my office should go paperless.”
“She wanted you to reduce your carbon footprint, Mister Rabbit,” Lauer smiled. “Nothing wrong with that.”
“Original documents?” I stressed. “Originals that have not been scanned into your computer yet?”
“Not in the system?” he repeated.
“She was shredding originals, Detective!”
Lauer smirked and scribbled some more, “Did she work previously in a government office?”
“I would not be surprised at all if she did!” I responded.
“Were you able to recover anything?”
“No,” I pouted. “I lost five years’ of work.”
“You are an accountant, Sir?”
“No, a genealogist.”
“A gen–?” the detective looked up at me strangely, again.
“I research historical documents, government issued and otherwise, to piece together the lives and movements that had lived before. A recent example would be, what was it like to be a female proprietor trying to run a Speak Easy during Prohibition?|
“That’s very interesting, Sir,” Lauer added, “Was this woman a relative of yours?”
I shook my head. “No relation just an interesting research subject.”
“Too bad,” he continued, as he glanced at his watch. “I would have enjoyed hearing more. But, I do have one last question: When Miss Nostalgia left, what did you do next, Mister Rabbit?”
“I changed the house locks and then broke into the liquor cabinet!”
“So, Nostalgia was family to you, Mrs. Rabbit?” Detective Lauer’s partner asked as they sat at our old oak table near the picturesque kitchen window.
“No,” my girl sobbed into a handful of Kleenex before grabbing more from the dispenser. “She is from Rabbit’s side of the family.”
“And how do they get along?” was the next question.
“They don’t,” my devoted and loving wife confessed.
“Really?” Margolis feigned shock. “Can you explain their relationship?”
“Rabbit has ranted that he will kill her one day be … cause-“
My girl paused.
The officer looked up with a Cheshire Cat smile and a sugary-soft voice. “It’s okay, Mrs. Rabbit, continue.”
“Her early morning help calls are so expensive,” she sniffled. “My husband has had to go to the police or RCMP station and bail her out, at least a dozen times — and one time he had to wire her money.”
“So, your sister-in-law has a criminal record?” Margolis queried. “Was she involved in narcotics?”
“Oh, no!” MiLady giggled. “I don’t think so, but she did try to snuggle up to an airport Customs Officer whom she thought was too cute!”
Margolis tried to hide a smile, as she averted her gaze to update her notes, before asking:
“And Mr. Rabbit was called because …?”
“The Customs Officer mistook her flirting for soliciting and had her arrested!”
“Mrs. Rabbit,” Margolis began as she wiped away tears, “I have to ask: how old is Nostalgia?”
“Mid fifties to early-mid sixties. May … be. I’m not sure,” MiLady continued, “Rabbit always called Gia an old fossil, Banshee, or battleaxe, which made things …”
“Awkward?” Margolis smiled wide, completing the sentence.”
“No, not at that at all,” my girl corrected. “Very interesting really.”
“Gia is the most civil of pet names that my husband has for her. They have know each other since they were very young children. My mother-in-law found her in a bassinet, one morning, on the front step beside their morning milk bottle delivery.”
“Nostalgia was a foundling? Did your mother-in-law ever mention adopting her?”
MiLady smiled wider. “Oh there were lots of talk, but nothing happened due to family instability and unforeseen legal issues. Adoption lawyers wanted Nostalgia’s birth date, birthplace and the names of her birth parents. Mom didn’t know or have access to any of that information.”
Margolis scribbled madly.
“In desperation, she went back to the law office with Gia’s basinet. Dropped it on the lawyer’s desk and told him to find the information he demanded from what little was in it because that was all she had.”
“So, no one knows Nostalgia’s proper name?”
“No,” MiLady replied sadly.
“We need to back up a bit, Mister Rabbit.”
“Yes, we do,” I nodded taking two steps away from him.
WHERE IS NOSTALGIA?” he asked again.
“I do not know, Sir!” I blurted in frustration — not a good thing, I believe, during a police investigation. “If I did, I certainly would not have bothered the police!”
Lauer smirked. “Valid point, Mr. Rabbit, but you were the last one to see her –“
“Alive?” my girl whimpered, clutching a fresh handful of Kleenex, looking tearfully for official confirmation that the Old Banshee still was.
“Yes, Mrs. Rabbit,” the detective answered calmingly as he locked eyes with his Afrikkan-American partner. “Unless police findings dictate otherwise, your sister-in-law is a missing person.”
“I will send out the BOLO,” Margolis said, as she waved a pack of nicotine gum at Lauer. “Join me outside for a smoke, when you’re done.”
Pretty little thing,” I remarked after the lady detective shut the door. “How did see get stuck with you?”
Lauer smiled and snorted, “I needed a protection detail after my last case: A drug bust. Nzuri was the only volunteer.”
“Oh, my!” MiLady gasped, covering her mouth. “She’s brave.”
“Eight overly-protective older brothers,” replied the detective.
“That’ll do it!” I added as my girl shook her head in disbelief.
“Okay, Mister Rabbit, we’re done here.”
“Anything else?” I inquired.
“Not at this time, Sir,” he answered, as he doffed his Fedora to MiLady and reached for the door. “But, we’ll be back, if we do.”
MiLady locked the door then crossed the floor to embrace me across the chest in a hug.
“That went rather well, she said with a deep sigh of relief.
I returned the hug and kissed her forehead.
“No, Dear’st, not really.” I replied as I viewed our reflection on the wall mirror and saw my poor taste in t-shirts.
“Do you think Nostalgia is okay? my favourite girl asked as we parted.
“I try not to, I muttered.
Like a staggering drunk crossing an icy street, my cell buzzed towards the edge of the nightstand before dropping to the floor.
Reaching over the bedside, I grabbed the stupid device and quickly checked it.
“Hullo?” I half-answered.
“Hello, Mister Rabbit,” greeted a female voice. “This is Nzuri Margolis. We need to meet with you, again, Sir. Can you be available in half an hour?”
“Uhhhhh,” [Brain Drain – that’s when your brain reboots and your mouth is left unsupervised for three minutes.].
“I think so?” I self-questioned.
Nzuri laughed. “Perfect! We’ll pick you up.”
“Am I being arrested?” I asked, as my brain came online in time to register ‘pick you up.’
I received a dial tone for an answer.
“Was that your mother, Dear’st?” MiLady asked in a mumble. “Is she okay?”
“No, it was the Police,” I said, “I have a coffee date with your friendly lady detective.”
“Oh, okay,” she mumbled again as she rolled over. “Tell her I said, ‘Hi!'”
After a quick shower ‘n’ shave, and a clean set of clothes, I was waiting outside for my ride.
Looking at my phone, I quickly glimpsed my T-shirt. I did it again! Absent-mindedly, I sabotaged myself.
The cops won’t have to work too hard to prove anything, I thought. My own wardrobe condemns me!
My forest green T-shirt had a cartoon version of three gravestones clustered together. The words ‘Cemetery hunter’ was scrawled upon the middle grave and a gun scope’s cross-hairs focused upon the “R” in Hunter.
I looked up and down the street quickly and saw nothing.
I’ve got enough time to change my shirt.
I unlocked the door, got one step in and —
“Mister Rabbit? Mister RABB-it!” Margolis shouted in a slight melodic accent. “Is everything alright, Sir?”
“I forgot my travel mug,” I lied, as I re-locked my front door.
Her face lit up with a smile that was brightly genuine. It was reassuring to see a smile that was not a theatrical work-related fake.
“That’s okay, Mister Rabbit,” she said as we climbed into the small car, where Lauer sat in the driver’s seat. “We can get you a fresh cup of coffee. How do you take it?”
“I’m a tea drinker, Madame, if your offer is still valid.”
“How do you take your tea, Sir?” she corrected as we drove up to the coffee shoppe around the corner and down three blocks.
After I answered, Margolis turned foul on her partner.
“Tell him, Matt. Tell him, now!” she demanded as she stepped out and closed the door.
“Tell me what?”
“We need to talk to before we take you to the station, Sir.” Lauer replied.
“Good morning, Mr. Rabbit,” was the greeting from a voice that entered the room long before he did. “Sorry to wake you so early, but I have some questions I needed to ask you, right away.”
“If you came to my door instead with doughnuts,” I replied, “I would have invited you in for coffee and breakfast.”
“Thank you, Sir, but that would have hindered our search.”
“Search?” I queried. “Google or Bing?”
He shook his head, “As we speak, a search warrant is being presented to your wife …”
“And you hope to find what?” I asked with a sudden hint of annoyance. “Evidence that would explain Nostalgia’s disappearance?”
He looked over his eyeglass rims. “You are a person of great interest.”
“And your people skills are lacking, Mister,” I chided. “You have changed topic and avoided all I ask of you.”
“I am Sergeant Valentine, Sir,” the big man started, “and your questions are not as important as mine!”
“Oh, on the contrary, Mister Valentine,” I shot back. “You ask a question, I ask a question. It is called bargaining. If you do not answer me, I will reciprocate in kind.”
I struck a nerve in the beast!
“With-holding information,” he growled, “Will put you on the fast-track to the detention cells!”
“And my withholding of information would mean you have to worker smarter,” I quipped, “As well as harder, which are two things I do not believe that you are in the mood for.”
A dull rap from the large pane of two-way glass that was built into the wall behind me.
Without a word, Valentine got up and stepped out.
“I’m sure you’ll find some way to entertain yourself, Rabbit,” he snarled.
“Would you leave me a marker, please?” I requested. “And I’ll draw anatomically correct Muppets on the glass for when you get back.”
Valentine glared at me wide-eyed while shaking his head.
“Gonzo, Animal or Miss Piggy?” I teased as he stepped into the hallway while *she* walked in.
As the door began to close, his next words were like venom: “Act your age, you idiot!”
“Oh, I would,” I confessed with a forced smile as he slammed the door shut. “But I’ve never been this old before.”
I then stood up and waited for her to sit down.
“Thank you, Mister Rabbit,” she said.
“You’re welcome, Ma’am.”
“You can call me, Doctor.” she continued.
I nodded. “Do you work with the Police, Doctor?”
“Yes, I do!” she answered proudly, “But I am here to ask questions of you, Sir.”
“Are you a psychiatrist?”
“Oh, no,” she tittered, “I’m here to talk to you about what you have on your computers.”
“May I ask you a question now, Mister Rabbit?”
“You just did,” I smirked.
“I was present when your residence was searched,” she began. “As a courtesy to your wife, all the computers were checked on site. Hers were cleared first so that she continue her work. She works in the medical field, yes?”
“Mister Rabbit? You permitted me to ask you a question.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Will you answer it, please?”
“No, thank you,” I replied.
“What is wrong, Sir?”
I told her. “I have talked with four alleged law officials in the last two days regarding the disappearance of my foster sister.”
“I was not aware of that,” she apologized. “Do you need someone from the medical field?
“No, thank you, Doctor. My concerns are of a legal nature.”
“Oh! You want a lawyer!” she announced.
“No, Ma’am,” I smiled. “I would like to know exactly with whom I am conversing.”
“Oh, Mister Rabbit, I am so sorry! I thought I introduced myself when I came in!”
The woman stood and offered her hand across the table in salutation.
“I am Doctor Sylvia Love, Mister Rabbit.”
I stood, took her gently in my own and bowed my head. “A pleasure, Ma’am.”
We then stood for a few moments in a very awkward silence.
Finally, she whispered, “What do we do now?”
“After you, Doctor,” I gestured to the chair that she had vacated. As she sat, I took my place opposite and resumed the proper — stiff — elementary school posture at a writing desk.
“You are not really cooperating with me, Mister Rabbit …” she began.
“As I said, Doctor, I have spoken to four alleged law enforcement officers, But I have not seen a single badge or photo I.D. card.”
“Oh, Mother have mercy!” she screeched as she dug into both of her sweater pockets. “I forgot! Again!”
She then slid the lanyard and encapsulated card across the table.
S.LOVE, Ph.D – FORENSICS
“I am really very sorry, Mister Rabbit. The lanyard is too long and I am always getting it caught in cabinets and my car door.”
I smirked and slid the card back to its owner, “How may I help you. Doctor?”
“Oh, bless you, Sir!” Sylvia chimed as she cracked open her notebook. “I have so much I want to ask you! I don’t know where to begin.”
“I could answer your first question with a yes. My wife has been employed in the medical field for almost 28 years,”
“Thank you. Next question: There were two computers that we removed from your residence. One was a desktop, the other a laptop. Your wife stated that they were yours.”
“That is not a question, Doctor.”
“They are encrypted, Mister Rabbit,” she added. “Could you please tell me what algorithm or method you used?”
“No, Ma’am, I cannot.”
“Mister Rabbit, it is evident that you are very well versed in data encryption. These computers were not just subjected to a simpleton’s Caesar-Shift Cypher or by symmetric means. It is an asymmetric multi-key work of art!”
I smiled, but she continued anyway.
“Sir, I believe you to be a colleague with your knowledge, I would enjoy learning from you on how you did this! Please, tell me!”
“No, Ma’am, I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I cannot.”
Doctor Love blew razzberries in frustration.
“I cannot tell you, Doctor, because I didn’t do it! I have not been able to access my bloody notes or my research for the last three days since Nostalgia left!”
Doctor Love stood. “Do you think that your sister did this?”
“No one else in my family is capable of it,” I admitted.
Love offered her hand again. “Thank you for speaking with me, Mister Rabbit.”
I stood and shook it lightly. “Likewise, Ma’am, I am free to go home now?”
She shook her head before turning for the door.
I remained standing.
“But,” she smiled before leaving the room, “I do wish you the best of luck in locating your sister.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” I whispered with a low bow as the door slid shut again.
Too many voices were garbled beyond the interrogation room door, before Sergeant Valentine entered — and this time, he wasn’t alone.
“Rabbit!” he snarled.
I jumped up and down and clapped excitedly. “Ohh, you’re home! You’re safe! I was so worried …”
“Sit down, you idiot!”
I sat quickly with my hands in my lap. “Yes, Sir.”
The officer rolled his eyes before taking the chair opposite mine.
“I am here to give you one last chance to confess to your sister’s murder, Mister Rabbit.”
“Have you found her body?” I inquired.
“Do you have the murder weapon in your possession, or the means of her death explained reasonably?” I asked next.
“No,” he repeated.
“Then I call your bluff, Darling, because you have nothing!”
“You don’t have an alibi, you numb-skull!” the detective spat loudly as he suddenly towered over the table, sending his chair scuttling backwards across the floor.
Calmly, I stood and placed my hands in front of me.
“You are under arrest for the murder of your sister, Nostalgia Rabbit!”
“Ohh,” I pouted as the metal cuffs were tightened. “Did you lose your cute, pink, fuzzy ones?”
The two uniforms snickered.
“You’re not so smart now, Mister Rabbit.” the sergeant gloated, as he tucked in his shirt and tugged his pants up by his belt, before continuing as I was taken to the door. “I’m off to Records to help with –“
The door slid open and two familiar faces came in.
“Good morning, Sir! I brought you a cup of tea,” Detective Nzuri Margolis greeted happily until she saw the handcuffs. She glowered at her partner.
“Get those off him!” Detective Matthew Lauer demanded. “Mister Rabbit is a prime witness under federal protection.”
Valentine fumed at the inconvenience. “I’m charging him with murder. You can have him when I’m done with him!”
“Hold this,” she said to Lauer smiling, as she passed the to-go tea cup to him. Stepping towards Valentine, who stood almost a foot taller than her, she pulled a bundle of papers from her jacket pocket and almost rubbed them in his face.”
“These are written in English AND French,” she told him before slamming the pages into his chest, “Stating that Mister Rabbit and his family are in the care and protection of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police! If you don’t understand that, I’ll go to your supervisor, and she can hold your hand while telling you how this bedtime story is going to end.”
While Nzuri continued to berate my captor, Lauer obtained a constable’s key and released me from my restraints.
“Sorry, Rabbit,” he whispered. “Let’s get you out of here, shall we?”
I nodded and was about to ask for my wallet, when Margolis handed it over along with my cellphone and wedding ring.
“Gotcha covered, Sir,” she smiled as we left the room.
“How did things go, Mister Rabbit?” Nzuri asked when we stepped outside.
I waited until we were all inside the car before I answered.
“Don’t EVER tell me to do ANYTHING like that EVER again!” I Blared. “THAT Valentine has NO sense of humour WHAT-soever!”
I fumbled with my seat-belt buckle, before realizing I was sharing the backseat with my computers.
“Doctor Love parted with these?” I asked. “I’m surprised, she was very interested in learning who encrypted them.”
Both detectives laughed.
“She knows who did it,” Margolis chirped.
“And so do you,” added Lauer.
“Stop the car!” I demanded. “I want out! This sick joke isn’t funny any more!”
Matt pulled the car over and turned around to lean over the seat to see me.
“This is no joke, Mister Rabbit,” he admitted. “Your sister encrypted your computer and laptop.”
“Without telling me why she did it!” I growled.
Nzuri joined in. “We believe there is delicate information on your computers, Sir, which required the special encryption techniques to hide from prying eyes.”
I looked at her wide-eyed. “My genealogy research is delicate information? Really?”
“No, Sir,” she smiled. “We think Nostalgia got into some trouble and hid incriminating evidence among your research files, because your computer and laptop were the easiest to access.”
“*MY* Gia?” I asked, “In trouble again? Why am I not surprised?”
I stopped for a moment, as my mind streams as rapidly as a 486 computer on dial-up. “But why are you telling me this?”
“Because we need your help, Mister Rabbit,” a new voice declared as a well-dressed man climbed into the car seat opposite me. “She hasn’t checked in for two months!”
“We’re talking about the same Nostalgia? My Gia — Sister. Snitch. Whistleblower?”
“Ohh,” I muttered while massaging my temples. “I need to wake up.”
“Mister Rabbit,” the stranger continued. “Your sister left strict instructions to contact you if her cover was ever jeopardized.”
“Cover? Jeopardized? Do I look like an idiot?” I screamed. “Who Do You Think You Are?”
Then I realized a possibility.
“Am I on Candid Camera?”
Lauer chuckled as he restarted the car and resumed driving, while the stranger reached calmly into his jacket and pulled out a photo I.D. wallet with an odd-looking badge.
“My name is Templeton and I am with Interpol, Sir.”
When I regained consciousness, I was in a large office on a couch covered in a blanket.
“You’re awake!” cheered a smiling Doctor Love as she held out a steaming cup of tea. “A little bird told me that you like it with honey, not sugar.”
“Tank. Tank. Thank you, Ma’am,” I stammered reaching for the steaming cup and saucer.
“I am so glad for this opportunity to work with you, Sir,” she gushed. “In lieu of the circumstances, of course — and please, call me, Sylvia.”
I nodded, uncertain if I should say anything more as I reviewed the crowd gathered around my computers at a large desk.
“You must be so proud of your sister, Mister Rabbit!”
“Whatever do you mean, Sylvia?” I asked. “Gia is a scatter-brained OCD individual with ADHD tendencies, who is easily distracted by shiny trinkets and bulging biceps.”
“Oh,” Love whispered, hiding a wicked smile. “I am so sorry, Sir.”
Templeton then rose from behind the desk, while the others turned in my direction.
“Mister Rabbit, please sit here,” he said offering his chair. “We need to explain a few things about Nostalgia and what she was doing when she was not under the protection of your care.”
“Under my what?”
“You are listed as her Next of Kin …”
“I wish I could say something to the contrary,” I remarked between tea sips.
“… As well as her safe house.”
I spat out my tea!
“Will somebody, PLEASE, tell me what the heck she was doing?!?”
Templeton sat in the chair beside the desk as Sylvia cleared her throat.
“We were working undercover to expose a complex racketeering ring. Mister Rabbit.”
“We? As in all of you?” I asked.
“No, just your sister and I, Sir. My lead was in the police station from the start. Hers led her there about six months later.”
“Six — How long have you both been working on this case, Doctor?”
“Just over two years, Mister Rabbit.”
“And you did nothing to help her?!?” I snarled through clenched teeth.
“I couldn’t, Sir,” the Doctor started.
“Not you, Ma’am.”
I turned on Templeton.
“Two months’ of nothing, so you did nothing?”
“I was not in the operation, Mister Rabbit.”
“She reported to you, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did, Sir,” he answered quietly.
I looked at Margolis and Lauer. “I want to go home, now … Please.”
“Mister Rabbit,” Doctor Love pleaded, “May I ask the last time you spoke to your sister?”
“Three days ago.”
“And how did she appear to you?” she continued. “Did she seem agitated or out of sorts?”
I laughed, “We are talking about Nostalgia, Ma’am. I have never known her to be anything but agitated and out of sorts!”
“So, she was not worried, nervous or upset?” was her next question.
“Not unless I brought it out during one of our arguments,” I smiled. “It is so easy to rile her.”
“Sibling rivalry is normal.”
“I am sorry, Doctor, Gia and I are many things, but normal has never been one of them.”
“But she listed you as her Emergency e-key, Mister Rabbit!”
“What Emergency key? She never gave me any key!”
“No, Sir,” the doctor continued. “Let me show you.”
Love came in beside me and pointed to the dual screens.
“These monitors are connected to your laptop and desktop. As you can see, there is a security screen requiring a six-character passcode.”
“And you think I know this code?” I asked in disbelief.
The doctor nodded as she placed an open letter on the desk in front of me.
“This is Nostalgia’s instructions,” she said. “To be opened if her cover was ever jeopardized.”
It was an odd-looking letter. It was a page of ruled paper, with holes from a three-ring punch, as if torn from a school notebook.
“If I get my hands on the Old Battleaxe, I’m going to kill her!” I snapped.
“We would like to find her first, Mister Rabbit,” Sylvia smiled.
“Of course, Doctor,” I stammered, “But I don’t know what help I can be, she never told me what in the World she was doing!”
“Actually,” Margolis smiled. “Your name has been very helpful. It provided us access through the first screen.”
“But, now we’re stuck on the next one,” Lauer complained. “And it’s another six-character key.”
That word bothered me, haunted me — but why?
Why is it so familiar? I though to myself. Gia hasn’t spelled it like that since —
“FOSSIL!” I shouted suddenly.
“I beg your pardon, Mister Rabbit!” Doctor Love snapped back taking serious offence.
Try fossil for the keyword, Detective,” I said again while excitedly explaining to the group when Nostalgia first started calling me ‘ЯABbit.’
“She always got in trouble at school for her handwriting. She was told it looked like a drug prescription, so in retaliation, she printed. Her printing was …” I stared closer at the paper. “Immaculate?”
“And you called her Fossil in kind to the ЯABbit remark?” Margolis asked while tapping away at the keyboard.
“Yes, to remind her how much older she was than me,” I confessed.
“YES!” Everyone cheered as the monitor flashed green and my desktop appeared.
I leaned in closer. It looked like my desktop.
“I don’t believe it!” Nzuri chirped, “Do you number all your folders, Mister Rabbit?”
“No,” I answered, “but I do colour code the important ones.”
“Would they be a dark green with a white rabbit silhouette on them?”
I shook my head. “Sorry, that’s not my desktop. It’s my logo but not my desktop.”
Detective Margolis growled at the screen. “Your sister needs to get out and socialize more!”
She then proceeded to tell us that every white rabbit folder, regardless of the number that identified it, required a 14-character password!
“ЯABbit.” I repeated, almost singing, as I stared at that scrap of paper, again. “It has to be ЯABbit.”
“We’ve already tried that one, Sir,” Sylvia replied softly.
“ЯABbit, ЯABbit. Where are you, ЯABbit?” I said rubbing my eyes, still staring at the paper scrap. “Dammit!”
The officers each looked at Templeton, who had been sitting quietly and still in the chair beside the desk. He nodded slowly.
“One of us could take you home to rest a bit, Sir,” Lauer offered. “And then follow up with you again tomorrow.”
“Rest a bit. Home, ЯABbit. Get out, ЯABbit. More. ЯABbit, ЯABbit. Where are you ЯABbit?”
The doctor had some genuine concerns. “Detective Lauer is going to take you home, Mister Rabbit.”
“No, it’s quite alright, Sir,” she said consolingly as she tried ushering out the office door.”
“You evidently need your rest,” continued Love. “It’s been a very tiring day. You and I can review everything again, Tomorrow.”
“Reverse,” I mumbled, “Reverse, everything!”
“Oh, you poor dear!”
“Wait! The key *is* ЯABbit! Quick, give me some paper! I can explain!”
With Nzuri’s notepad and pencil, I started scribbling what happened to be random letters all over the page.
“When Gia and I were kids, we didn’t play outside much because one of us, or the other, was sick. So, we made up games and secret coded messages.”
“Let me guess,” Lauer interrupted. “You played ‘Spies'”
“No, ‘Secret Agents!'” I smiled wider, “Mum didn’t mind because we were quiet, but my father hated the messes we made afterwards.”
“What messes, Sir?” inquired Margolis.
“We would make secret messages from my father’s newspapers. We would clip out the bold letters from the headlines and full-page adverts and then glue them into place; but sometimes the glue went wherever it wanted.”
“I’m surprised at you!” Lauer was shocked, “I though Doctor Love was the only one old enough to do that!”
“But there are no cut-outs in the message, Mister Rabbit,” Sylvia quipped while ignoring the detective.
“When we couldn’t use newspapers, we did Reverse Order!”
In perfect unison, every cop tilted their head over their right shoulder.
“Reverse Order was our game of coded messages when we were small. We played it like this:”
I pointed at my sister’s message.
“Read it normally but stop at each work that contains a Cyrillic character – a reversed letter. So, in this case, that funny letter R.”
Doctor Love listened intently.
“Locate all the capitals in the same word as that R, and that is –“
“A-B,” Templeton contributed.
“That’s right, but remember: the game is Reverse Order, so you would write it down as –“
“B-A!” Sylvia and Nzuri shouted happily.
“No one will ever believe this,” I muttered as the ladies collected High Fives from around the desk. “Hell, even I don’t believe this! I am teaching cops and professional code breakers a child’s game that’s over 45 years old!”
“And it is very interesting!” the doctor complimented. “Please continue.”
“Next, are there any more words with capitals and reversed letters?”
“No,” Margolis replied.
“Okay. Next, how many capitals are in each word, without counting reversals.”
“Okay,” growled Lauer. “We got two — that means what?”
“Two letters. Two words.”
“You’re kidding me? Two kids concocted this stuff?” he asked doubtfully.
I smiled. “I was in Grade One when we started, and we perfected it four years later.”
“Did you find a way,” Doctor Love asked, “to encode how many characters make up each word?”
“No. just the total number.”
So, B-A is two words,” Sylvia repeated. “But we don’t know how many letters are in each.”
“We might,” I interrupted. “I remember we made a lot of messages one summer, but I was having far too many problems remembering numerical passkeys, which were Nostalgia’s favourites; so she used her numbers to signify the total amount of letters in the passkeys and then those keys were based on my favourites.”
“And that was?” inquired Nzuri.
“Important persons involved in the War of 1812.”
Like George Washington!” the doctor chimed.
“Okay,” answered Love, “try Paul Revere
“Or Betsy Ross,”Lauer added.
“No and no,” Nzuri answered. “Not enough letters for either of those.”
I smiled. “B-A also signifies the first letter from each word. So, you might want to try, Benedict Arnold.“
“Why him?” Sylvia asked, “Out of all the participants from that war?”
“I found him interesting,” I replied looking at my phone. “Later on, I discovered my late (first) wife was descended from him. Please excuse me, Doctor.”
I walked to the far side of the room and quietly acknowledged the distant voice calling me, while coloured folders and names of historical places and people still littered my desktop.
“I don’t believe it, we’re in!” Nzuri shouted, but Lauer had been watching my body language.
“Hey, Mister Rabbit,” he asked, “who called?”
“A Doctor Gardner,” I said softly, “Nostalgia is with her.”
“OH, that’s wonderful news!” Sylvia rejoiced. “Where is she?”
I chucked my phone hard across the room and dropped to my knees.
“She …” my voice was breaking. “She’s in the Morgue!”
I scrambled from the patrol car before it came to a full stop. Its sirens and those from the three others created a wide berth of cars pulling over upon both sides of the street!
I entered the massive oak doors and saw a familiar face.
“Dear’st,” MiLady pleaded with outstretched arms. “What happened?”
I ran into her embrace, held her tight and rested my cheek lightly upon her head.
“I don’t know,” I whispered in her ear. “The officer didn’t say.”
We parted, but MiLady still kept a reassuring arm behind my back, as Gia’s work-mates came near.
“We are here to help,” Doctor Love offered, “with anything you may need, Sir.”
“You just name it, Mister Rabbit,: added Lauer. “And you got it!”
“Our offer extends to you too, Ma’am,” Sylvia said softly. “Are the children allright?”
“They are upset!” MiLady retorted, her voice still trembling. “And they are confused, and they are angry. They want to know who did this to their Aunty G, and what happened to her — and I don’t know what to say to them because … NO ONE IS TELLING US ANYTHING!”
She buried her head in my shoulder sobbing, as I cradled her close in my bad arm. My left arm wrapped around her, my hand behind her head and my fingers laced in her hair. Instinctively, I dropped my head, closed my eyes and kissed her forehead.
“We will find answers for you, Mrs. Rabbit.” It was Nzuri’s voice. “All of them.”
I do not know how much time went by, but when I opened my eyes, Lauer, Margolis and Templeton were near the oak doors, where we entered, standing watch.
At the opposite side of the hall, I saw Doctor Love talking with a much taller woman, who acknowledged my stare with a curt nod.
“Allow me the introductions, Sir,” Sylvia offered, as I approached them. “I put before you, our Chief Coroner, Doctor Hilda Gardner. Hilly, this gentleman is Mister Rabbit.”
“I am very sorry to bring you here, under these circumstances.” She offered her hand and bowed her head slightly.
With a slow bow and a light squeeze to her hand, I thanked her. “These things, however unpleasant, must happen, Doctor. To avoid them hinders One’s responsibility to carry on this their memory and legacy.”
“May I ask you,” Doctor Gardner pleaded, “To follow me in, now, please? Alone.”
I could hear my footfalls upon the floor.
The room was silent and sparse. Three empty exam tables and a small computer desk in the corner were its only fixtures.
“Have I caught you at a bad time, Doctor?” I asked while entering as I heard her struggle to close the large steel door behind me.
Wait a minute,” I thought, Did she just lock it?
Doctor Gardner laughed, “So, this is the very odd sense of humour that I’ve heard so much about.”
I looked strangely at her.
“I had the privilege to work with your sister a few times, Mister Rabbit. When we talked about our families, you were a very popular topic.”
“Oh, lucky me,” I whined, hoping that that I could turn invisible. “I can just imagine the stories she made up.”
“I can tell you two things, Sir: (1) your sense of humour is charming, don’t change it; and, (2) Gia is very proud of you.”
“Was, Doctor,” I corrected her poor grammar. “She was proud of me. Allegedly.”
“Please have a seat, Mister Rabbit,” she requested with a growing smile. “I need to talk to you about a few things first.”
We crossed the floor to the desk and occupied the two chairs there. I sat beside the computer, rather than in front, in case the doctor needed to access it.
“So,” she began as her cell phone starting vibrating — a heartbeat, ironically. “I’m sorry, I need to take this.”
“I am not alone, I need a moment,” she said to her caller as she got up and walked to the furthest of the exam tables.
A minute later: “Okay, I can do that before the end of the day,” she concluded sharply then pocketed the phone in her lab coat and returned to our conversation.
“Where were we?” she asked as she sat. “Right. Allow me to be blunt, Mister Rabbit. Your sister made many enemies in our line of work; I cannot explain it any better than that.”
“So, you cannot, or will not, tell me what she has done, or what she was doing, that led up to this?” I asked pointing at the wall of refrigerated cabinets.
Gardner shook her head. “No, Sir.”
I paused to comprehend what she *was* implying. My head was swimming, no, drowning, in the perversity of the situation.
“I need to see her, Doctor,” I requested as I stood and turned to the steel, retaining cabinets. “Please.”
“Of course,” the coroner responded, as she checked her computer screen. “Number 43. This way, Mister Rabbit.”
The wall of retainers, upon closer inspection, resembled a symmetrical pattern of wall paneling made of polished, stainless steel.
Four tiers high and fifteen cabinets across, its presence was absolute. The highest row was marked with bright, red lanyards clipped in the locking hasps of the pull handles, while the next row and a half had highlighter yellow or neon green lanyards.
“You’re using the stoplight system,” I commented. “Red , I/m guessing, are cold cases.”
:Yes, very good, Sir! How did you solve that?”
“The top row is almost inaccessible,” I answered. “But I cannot figure out, if the green or the yellow are current.”
Gardner smiled. “Both are current. Yellow is ongoing while green is resolved and waiting for pickup.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, pickup refers to funeral services,” she answered with a grunt, as she slipped off the yellow lanyard and yanked the handle. “May I recruit your assistance? This door is stuck.”
The door popped loudly like a champagne cork, accompanied by a long, slow hiss from the broken air seal.
The room suddenly felt colder. I stepped back as the doctor took hold of the drawer handle an pulled.
The drawer wasn’t very wide; a little more than two feet, but it was long — almost seven, and …
“Empty,” I locked eyes with Gardner. “Why is it empty?”
“Oh, wrong drawer!” she shrieked. “We need Number 34 not 43!”
Moving to the opposite side of the row, we located the proper cabinet and listened again to the popping cork and hissing air seal.
“Do you need a moment, Sir?”
I shook my head.
Unlike television, the zippered bag she opened was black vinyl not white plastic.
“She was found four hours ago in the ravine. I estimated her death between 1900 and 2130 hours, three days ago.”
I took a step back as I covered my nose and mouth.
Gardner apologized. “Sorry, Sir, she’s been gone too long.”
“No, Doctor,” I choked, “That’s *not* my sister!”
“Are you certain, Mister Rabbit?” Doctor Gardner asked with concern. “She was exposed to the elements and nature for almost three days.”
“This woman is missing a heart-shaped birthmark on her left shoulder near her clavicle.” I confided as I stepped closer.
May I see her legs, please?” I then asked. “Gia had surgery done on her left knee from a sports injury in high school.”
“No, football,” I replied. “She was very good at it.”
“Football?” the coroner was shocked. “Like Peyton Manning?”
“Peyton Mann–? Oh, no! Not Super Bowl football,” I laughed, “World Cup football. Think David Beckham.”
Doctor Gardner smiled as she exposed the legs, just above the knee, of the woman and I took a step closer.
“I don’t see any scars, Doctor. This woman cannot be –“
I felt a hard hit across the back of my head as I fell to the cold floor.
“I’m so sorry for all this, Sir,” I faintly heard before blacking out. “I truly am.”
Twenty minutes later:
“I think … he’s coming to,” Gardner whispered. “Are you certain I had to hit him?”
“Yes,” another voice answered. “You just him him too hard!”
My eyes fluttered to focus as I discovered the coroner sitting opposite me, our knees almost touching. She was conducting a conversation with her cell phone.
“I am sorry, again, Mister Rabbit,” she apologized. “But we couldn’t chance your over exuberance alerting everyone outside.”
She pointed to the door, where my wife was waiting on the other side with four members of Police Services.
I tried to speak, but could not.
“Another precaution, Sir,” Gardner explained resting a finger gently against my taped gag. “But, I will remove it very soon, I promise.”
I tilted my head and stared hard.
“So, what do we do now?” she asked the caller.
“LEt me see him!” the voice demanded.
When Doctor Gardner flipped her phone around, my eyes grew large.
The duct tape muffled my many curses, while the zip ties strained to keep my hands and feet to the back and sides of the chair that I was forced to sit in. I was vibrating with shock, surprise and anger!
“Rabbit,” Nostalgia pleaded, “I’m in trouble. Yes, I know what you’ll say: Again?”
I stiffened in my chair and looked away, unable to do anything more.
“Please, little brother, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know how else to tell you what you need to know without jeopardizing your safety or that of your family!”
I glanced in her direction.
“I know you’re mad, but my phone is bugged and so is yours!”
I sat properly forward and focused on the little phone image.
“You must be careful, Rabbit,” the Old Banshee continued. “My cover was blown and I was thrown under the bus by one of my own work mates!”
My eyes went wide, again. I made some very vulgar noises behind my taped gag and jerked my head towards the door.
“Yes, I know. Hilly told me that you’re here with MiLady.”
“She is safe for now, Sir,” the doctor added, “and, please, stop moving around so much, you are going to hurt yourself.”
I leaned towards the phone and mumbled some more.
“Hilly? Do you have any idea what he is trying to say to me, because I don’t.”
I sat back, sighed heavily and rolled my eyes.
“No,” Gardner answered, “but I could take the tape off, if he promises not to be loud.”
I nodded rapidly and leaned forward.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she said as she picked at a tape corner. “Or get mad.”
I closed my eyes tight as I felt the tape tear and sting.
“Or get loud!” Gardner pleaded while she cut the zip ties, as I opened my eyes.
“Give! Me! That! Phone!” I demanded holding out my first freed hand
The coroner complied.
“NOSTALGIA!” I growled glaring at the screen. “What the fu–“
“Hello, Rabbit,” my nervous sibling whispered. “How are you?”
After some unsavory language, in Gaelic, English and French, I was relatively calm enough to have a mediocre inquisition of 20 Questions.
“Who do you suspect?” I grumbled as I pointed at the steel door. “Have you narrowed it down, because my wife is out there alone with all four of them!”
“I’m not sure whom. I’m concerned about two of them, but I may be wrong,” the Old Fossil confessed.
“What is on my computers, Gia? They got through the three levels of pass encryption …”
“With your help,” she added proudly.
“NOSTALGIA!” I raged.
“Please, Rabbit, listen carefully …”
“… for your assistance, Mister Rabbit,” Gardner said appreciatively offering her hand as we stepped through the open door.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” I weakly smiled as I took her hand in mine and shook it gently.
“And I am sorry, Sir,” she added with a discreet wink.
Doctor Hilda Gardner then watched as I turned and met with MiLady, who had been talking with the two detectives.
“You’ve been crying, Dear’st,” my girl said with worry, after we hugged. “Was it –?”
“It wasn’t her,” I said shaking. “It was her coat, but it wasn’t her.”
“Oh, that’s good!” she cheered, pulling me into another bear hug. “That means she’s still out there! There’s still a chance to find her!”
Sylvia and Templeton came closer to hear the news, while Gardner returned to her work as the massive door slammed shut.
“What would you like to do, Mister Rabbit?” asked Nzuri softly.
“Home. I just want to go home.”
“We can do that,” said Agent Templeton.
“No,” I snarled pointing at the detectives. “They can! You and the rest of your people can get busy and find my sister!”
“We will, Mister Rabbit,” Doctor Love answered. “And we will start with our Jane Doe. You said that this woman was found wearing your sister’s coat?”
I nodded. “Doctor Gardner told me that she was sending it off for testing.”
“oh, good!” Sylvia replied with a big smile. “My team and I will get right on that and tell you what we find, Sir!”
We parted ways in the street with Templeton and Love heading back to the Office.
The ride home was silent. Margolis sat shotgun while Lauer drove. Intermittently, she looked back at MiLady and I, in a reassuring embrace, and smiled approvingly.
Once we were safely inside our home, the detectives drove off.
“Are you okay?” my girl asked, after we settled in bed.
“I can’t sleep.”
“That’s perfectly normal, Babe. Nostalgia is still missing and you’re worried.”
I sat up. “It’s not that.”
MiLady sat up and linked her arm through mine. “What then?”
“Gia’s alive and told me someone is trying to kill her! The crazy thing is, I think I know who it is!”
The next morning started with a call from Doctor Love.
“Mister Rabbit, we are sending a car to pick you up. We have some findings to update you on. Can you be ready in, say, 45 minutes?”
“I can be ready in half that, Doctor.”
“Oh, good then,” she laughed, “because Lauer and Margolis are waiting outside for you.”
Having finished breakfast, I grabbed my jacket and opened the door.
“Be careful,” MiLady begged as we kissed goodbye. “Are you going out in that shirt?”
“I will, and I am,” I responded with a smirk. “Just remember what I told you.”
My girl nodded and watched carefully as I climbed into the all-now familiar vehicle.
When we were out of sight, she closed the door and made a call on her cellphone.
“Benedict Arnold just left,” she whispered before hanging up.
“And how are you today, Sir?” Margolis asked as I buckled in.
“Tired. Couldn’t sleep.”
“Hopefully, you can sleep better tonight,” the lady detective continued. “We deciphered almost all of the B-A files on your computer. Four officers have been implicated.”
“Four?” I sounded shocked.
“Arrests have already been made,” added Lauer.
“And my sister?”
Silence took over the remainder of the trip. I would learn nothing more until oour arrival at the Office.
Doctor Sylvia Love was ecstatic. She and her team identified over 30 different stains on the coat; none of which were blood.”
:That’s all very nice, Doctor,” I said, “but did you figure out how that woman ended up with Nostalgia’s coat?”
“No, Mister Rabbit,” she started as she opened a phone and laid it upon the desk in front of me. “But, we were able to figure out who she called on the day she disappeared.
It was an old flip phone that had seen better days. Both the external and internal screens were cracked badly.
“The last two calls made were to you, Sir.” Love announced. “Doctor Gardner made the last to request you meet her in the Morgue.”
“Yes, I admitted, “After that call I threw my phone against Templeton’s office wall.”
Templeton smiled and gently tossed an Evidence bag on his desk. “Ee found all the pieces, in case you want to get it fixed.”
Sylvia Love then explainedthe next call was three days prior and only 13 seconds in duration.
“Do you remember it at all?
I rolled my eyes. “She said that she was in trouble. I then asked her, When aren’t you?”
Love smiled. “Did she say anything ,ore?”
“No, she sounded out of breath, like she was running to, or away from, something.”
“Or someone?” the doctor added.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I guess it’s possible.”
Love then pointed out an assortment of calls that sounded typical. Requests for taxis, take out, medical and dental appointments, until a dozen calls remained.
“This number is mine,” she pointed out. “Nostalgia called me twice before she called this one, which belong to Templeton.”
I moved in closer to review the order of calls and their duration, as the doctor continued.
“That leaves us with just one number that she called nine times.”
“Nine times?!? Who was my sister calling that often? Her lover?”.
“You know who she was calling!” I retorted, “Who wasit? TELL ME!”
“Templeton and I strongly believe that Nostalgia knew her cover had been compromised and was trying not to let on.”
My expression hardened, I didn’t like what I was hearing and they knew it.
“We think she was actually in contact with her killer,” Templeton added, “To keep aware of his whereabouts, as well as for her own safety.”
“‘His?’ Are we certain the killer is male?” was my rhetorical question.
“And she didn’t bother to ask, or tell, either of you that she needed help?”
Silence. It was then that I lost it. My temper.
“Or who was after her?”
I looked at my sister’s team. Calm, blank stares returned my gaze. It only made me angrier.
I felt useless. Gia was still missing and they were stanading around talking!
I looked down at the desk, and saw her cell. I picked it up and felt the overwhelming urge to throw it at one of them — any one of them — but put it back down. I couldn’t throw that. It was evidence.
Then I spied the perfect piece! I snatched and flung it as if from an over-wound catapult. It lobbed gracefully in the air, as if in slow motion, until it shattered against the far wall.
“That’s better,” I answered calmly.
“So, I guess we’re looking at a new phone and data plan, huh, Rabbit>” asked Lauer.
“No, Detective,” I snapped. “Whoever draws the short straw will be telling me the name I want.”
“We cannot do that,” Doctor Love replied softly. “Your revenge is not justified, Sir.”
My sister’s phone began vibrating across the table. The number was unknown to all of us. As the device continued ringing, we debated that it was best to check for any messages rather than answer it.
“That’s odd,” I announced, “No messages, unknown caller.”
“A phone call wasn’t made, Mister Rabbit,” Detective Margolis discovered inspecting it closer. “It’s an encrypted photo message with your Cyrillic R’s in it!”
While paper and pencils were found and at the ready, I had the calculations finished in my head.
“Я: City Park. 11pm,” I translated. “Alone. Bring this phone. -G”
I looked around the desk..
“Okay, what do I need to know and do? And who is taking me there?”
“We need a car at very entrance.” Templeton came to life. “An officer from Homicide as a homeless person as an extra set of eyes. Nzuri, you have connections with Homicide, we need that insider at the park now!”
Margolis nodded and ran out the door.
“Lauer, you need to talk to the desk,” Templeton continued. “We need seven more cars, unmarked, preferably.”
Lauer saluted then chased after his partner.
“Doctor, I need you to find enough earwigs for all the team — just us.” Templeton moved his hand in a circle “I will set up a mobile-base and co-ordinate everyone from here.”
“And me?” I asked. “Gia asked for me.”
“Yes, Sir, she did.” Templeton remarked, as he and Doctor Love were leaving. “I need you to wait here for your ride. Someone will be back for you, okay?”
I paced the floor for close to twenty minutes, before the door opened again.
“Let’s move, Rabbit! Time’s wasting!”
I looked back and froze.
It was Sargeant Valentine!
“G-G-Good evening!” I stuttered “Why — Why? Why, are you here?”
“Shovel that manure somewhere else, Rabbit,” he growled throwing a cellphone at me, as he closed the door. “It’s for you!”
The call was open and as I brought it to me ear, I heard an ear-splitting —
“Gia?” I questioned holding the device at arm’s length while tapping out the ringing from my good ear.
“Rabbit! Oh, thank goodness, it is you!”
“Nostalgia,” I scolded, “This isn’t the plan you told me to follow! I –“
“You’re in grave danger, Dearie!” she interrupted. “Stay with Valentine! This is Plan B!”
“Plan B? Nostalgia, what –?” The phone cut out.
“Pocket that thing and let’s go!” Valentine ordered as he yanked the door open and took off down the opposite hallway.
Scrambling out a side door, he ushered me into a little two-door coupe that had seen better days.
“Cute,” I commented, “They won’t find us this old piece of rubbish at this time of night.”
:this is *my* car, Sir,” Valentine grumbled.
I bit my lip. :My apologies, Sergeant.”
“Listen,” he said. “You were told Plan A for a reason.”
“But, Gia said that I’m in danger.”
“Ya, so it’s Plan B while you’re with me, and back to Plan A when you meet up with them again in the Park.”
“It sounds complicated.”
The sergeant laughed. “You don’t know the half of it. Are you ready? It’s almost showtime!”
“I know just the thing,” I smiled, as I attempted to carry a fitting tune, much to the copper’s disgust.
“What was *that* supposed to be?” he inquired.
“BATMAN!!” I sang proudly.
Valentine stuck his head out the open driver\s window, turned his gaze skyward and begged, “Good Lord, save me! He’s as nutty as his sister!”
“Am not!” I pouted.
“Rabbit, listen up! I’ll only say this once: we don’t have any Comm devices because we don’t want to be overheard at this point, okay?”.
As the big Russian parked his reliable, old clunker near the park’s maintenance entrance, I clued him in on the progress of Plan A.
“Ohh, wonderful!” he whined sarcastically. “So, this means we are going in hot with bingo time. You remember your good ol’ Army days, Rabbit?”
“All too well.”
“Good,” he finished as he spotted the undercover cop pretending to be homeless on a north-end bench. “Because if you’re not on your A-game, you’re gonna lose your sister!”
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
Halfway to the fountain, a frail, old bag lady, with many oversized bags in her fists, shuffled to the water cascade and sat on the low pool wall.
Setting her packages in front of her, she then proceeded to rifle through the largest one.
“It’s all you now, Rabbit,” Valentine whispered as he ducked to hide in the shadows of the maintenance shed. “Remember: stay with her!”
I was about ten feet away from her, when she looked up with a near-toothless grin.
“Hullo, Dearie,” she cackled heartily, patting the stone ledge to her left. “I won’t bite, I’ve already been fed.”
Two steps closer, I heard the popping of wine corks, or what sounded like them. A shrill whistle then buzzed past my ear causing me to look sharply to my left.
When I returned my gaze to the fountain, the old bag lady was slumped on the ground!
I scrambled to the raggedy heap and rolled her over. It was Nostalgia with three gunshots. Two medial shots in the abdomen and one to the anterior side of her left thigh.
I screamed repeatedly for help as I stripped out of my jacket and shirt, using them as batting to slow the blood.
“GIA!” I yelled as my eyes filled with tears. “You are not allowed to die on my watch, you Old Fossil!”
“I won’t Rabbit,” she smiled weakly. “I know you’ll kill me,” her voice trailed off softly as her eyelids closed,”if … I … do.”
Valentine appeared behind me, gun drawn looking for the shooter.
“The homeless cop, if he was a cop, is gone!” he roared. “I had to radio for help from my car. You need anything else, Rabbit?”
“Take off your belt!” I hollered still trying to clot her stomach wounds and failing miserably. “I need a tourniquet on her leg.”
“Sure, sure thing, Rabbit!” Valentine dropped to his knees and tugged his belt free, assiens could be heard faintly behind us.
“Tie it off above the bleed,” I ordered in my Old Army voice. “In five minutes loosen it for three and then tie it off again. We don’t want her to lose the leg completely.
“She says she needs you, Sir,” the young male paramedic said. “Please, make it quick, she needs a doctor!”
I leaned closely over my Old Banshee, who appeared to be sleeping.
“Nostalgia,” I whispered, “you’re making a scene! What is it?”
Her eyes opened wide.
“Take this, Rabbit! Quickly!” she struggled. “Give it to Gardner.”
I took her hand in mine and felt a small object forced into my palm.
“We have to go!” the other medic yelled. “Now!”
Valentine and I watched as the stretcher was folded. loaded in the ambulance and took off with sirens blaring.
“So, are we following or standing round here for a special invitation?” he growled, thrusting my bloody jacket in my chest.
At the hospital, we found the team in ICU. Margolis and Lauer stood outside the room door.
“Only two visitors at a time, Mister Rabbit,” Lauer stated.
“Protective custody, Sir,” Nzuri added. “Your wife and Doctor Gardner are in with her right now.”
“How is she?” I asked, realizing that I looked a bloody sight too.
“She lost a lot of blood, Mister Rabbit.” It was Templeton coming from the Nurses’ Station. “And she’d be dead right now, if it wasn’t for your quick thinking.”
I looked behind him and down the hall.
“Is Doctor Love coming by later?”
“She’s finishing up reports first,” he answered as the door opened. Hilda and MiLady shuffled out tearfully, clinging to each other for support as a nurse went in to check Nostalgia’s vitals again.
I locked eyes with my girl. She shook her head and whispered, “Not good.”
Rushing past them, I stopped.
:Doctor Gardner, I almost forgot!” I spun to face her as I dug into my jacket pocket and pulled out, two small cell phones. “Damn, which one is it?!?”
“Nostalgia instructed me to give you her cell, but then Valentine had given me his before we left for the park … and I’m sorry, I can’t remember which one is hers.”
Gardner smiled. “That’s an easy fix, Mister Rabbit. I’ll take them both.”
Opening the door wide, I then stepped in to find Valentine with his gun drawn and the nurse holding a pillow over my sister’s head!
“I’m sorry, Gia,” she whispered softly.
Valentine yelled, “FREEZE, SYLVIA!”
“Is there a full moon out tonight?!?” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!
I was … I was … I don’t remember what I was — besides confused.
“I know this looks bad, Sir,” Sylvia began, as she slowly turned to face me, lifting her arm overhead showing empty hands. “But I can explain everything!”
“Of course, Doctor,” I replied in disgust.
“Mister Rabbit,” she pleaded as Valentine grabbed her right arm and cuffed it behind her back. “This is not what it looks like. I am sorry that you walked in on this. You weren’t meant to.”
With concern, I looked beyond hr to the quiet, occupied hospital bed. “It’s not me you should be apologizing to.”
Valentine cuffed Love’s other hand and spun her to face the bed. Her eyes went wide!
Sitting straight up, bright-eyed and alert, was Nostalgia!
“Rabbit, please,” she whined like a frustrated child brushing the tubes and wires down her gown. “Help me take these things off!”
“NOSTALGIA! You shouldn’t be doing this! You lost a lot of blood!”
My Old Banshee giggled. “Oh, that. I’m sorry, Dearie, but I didn’t have the time to tell you.”
“Time to tell me what?” I asked cautiously, as MiLady and the rest of the team rushed in. “Do I really want to know?”
“I was shot, but I wasn’t shot,” she teased, wearing the Rabbit Family’s trademark smirk. “You and Valentine were at the north side of the park maintenance shed,Sylvia was lurking along the south side.”
“You?” I spat, spinning to face Love, who was being escorted out by two uniforms. “YOU SHOT MY SISTER?!?!”
“No, no, no! Stop, Rabbit!” Nostalgia cried, as she reached out and grabbed my arm. “She didn’t. Sylvia didn’t shoot me. She was shooting at you!”
“Me?!?” I looked around the room and was proud to notice that I was not the only one slightly perplexed.
“Remember that whistle you heard near your ear as you approached me? That was Sylvia trying to spook you into running away.”
I stared at my crazed sibling. Evidently, she was surfing on a wicked rush of some strong hallucinogens — and she wasn’t sharing!
I pointed at the exiting Doctor Love. “If she didn’t shoot you, who the Hell did, Gia?”
“You did, Dearie,” she said matter of factually.
“YOU. ARE. IN. SANE!”
Yes, I lost it. My temper. Again.
“I DID NO SUCH THING! I didn’t have a gun, Nostalgia! — Although I wish now that I did! — How on Earth could I shoot you?”
Valentine cleared his throat. “I can answer that, Mister Rabbit.”
“I’m all ears, Sergeant,” I said flustered, facing the big Russian.
“Do you remember when I tossed you the cell phone to talk with your sister?”
“What did you do with it, Sir?”
“I gave it to Doctor Gardner before we came in here.”
“Before that,” Valentine smiled. “What did you do with it after we left my car?”
I mimicked holding the device to my good ear. Closed it and — “I shoved it in my jacket pocket!”
The Sergeant smiled wider and nodded.
I turned to Nostalgia in disbelief. “I shot you with a cellphone? James Bond doesn’t even have gadgetry that does that!”
“Mister Rabbit?” It was Doctor Gardner’s turn to speak up. “Are you familiar with nano-technology?”
MiLady and I both shook our heads, as a smiling Hilda continued. “A cellphone enhanced with nano-technology can double as a detonator …”
“Detonator?” MiLady repeated. “Like a detonator for a bomb?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” the coroner acknowledged, “But, it was not used with a bomb. It was used with –“
“THese!” Nostalgia announced proudly with another childlike giggle, as she uncovered a massive, bloody mess under the blanket at her feet. “THeatrical groups call them blood vests and blood packs.”
“I secured your sister’s vest and leg packets,” Gardner finished, “while Detective Margolis prepared the two detonators.”
“Two detonators?” It was my turn. “Who had the second one?”
“I did, Mister Rabbit,” confessed Lauer. “I had the back-up unit in case something happened to you or Nostalgia.”
“But, I didn’t see you there. Were you hiding in the trees?”
“No, Sir,” he chuckled as the others shook their heads and smiled. “You saw me. I was pretending to be homeless.”
“But, the detonator I had was in my jacket pocket,” I confessed. “I – I – I wasn’t … holding it.”
Margolis spoke up. “My detonators are proximity switches, Mister Rabbit; you don’t need to hold them. When you get within a certain, pre-programmed distance, the detonators emit a signal that activates the blood packs.”
My head started spinning. I sat at the foot of Nostalgia’s bed, looking sharply from face to face to face and muttering.
“If you were our homeless guy, why did you disappear when I started calling out for help?”
“When you rushed to aid your sister, I spotted Sylvia. When I started to approach her, she ran out into the street! I signaled Valentine to help you, while I went after her.”
“But you lost her.”
“Yes, I did,” the detective admitted sadly. :She had a vehicle waiting for her.”
“Okay, I’m confused again.”
“See? See?” the Old Battleaxe was back to her true form. “I told you, Hilly, it doesn’t take that much to muddle him!”
I glared at my family nemesis. I didn’t need to say a word, she knew that look from the time we were kids.
“You wouldn’t dare, Dearie,” she sang sweetly as Gardner got the last of the tapes, leads and wires off and helped her out of bed.
Nzuri pulled the curtain partition out and around the corner separating the bathroom from the remainder of the suite for MiLady, who exited the curtain having placed a change of clothes on the bathroom sink.
“So, how did you get here?” I asked Lauer.
“I was waiting for him in the car, Mister Rabbit,” Margolis added. “We had parked on the West side. By the time I got to Matt, Sylvia was long gone.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” I said slowly, still processing what I had heard. “Then you called Templeton and told him about Sylvia?”
The detectives shook their heads.
“I couldn’t,” said Lauer. “I was changing in the backseat.”
“And I was already multitasking!” Nzuri added with a big, dirty smile. “Driving to the hospital and keeping an eye on Matt.”
I then turned to the sergeant. “Valentine, when you called for the ambulance, you informed Templeton, right?”
The big man shook his head, as I turned to lock eyes with the man from Interpol, while walking towards MiLady to hug her.
“Dear’st. did you call that number I gave you, when I left?”
“And how did you end up here before me?”
“That number you gave me, Doctor Gardner answered it. I told her that you had left and she said thank you – and before I hung up, she asked if I could meet her at University Hospital in five hours with a clean set of clothes for Nostalgia. I told her yes.”
“Yes, Mister Rabbit, what your wife said is exactly what happened,” the coroner finished.
“Wrong question, Ma’am,” I smiled. “Have you ever been in contact with Agent Templeton?”
“No,” she replied. “I spoke with Doctor Love or Detective Margolis. Agent Templeton was never available to speak to whenever I called from the Morgue.”
“Okay,” I snapped. “I have to ask: did anyone actually get an earwig for this operation? And if you did, would you please show it to me?”
Lauer and Margolis dug into their pockets and held out the wee listening devices.
“Mine fell out of my ear when I dropped t the ground, Dearie,” Nostalgia called out from behind the curtain. “Nzuri had been relaying to Matt and I what was happening on the car radio.”
“When I heard Valentine’s call for an ambulance,” the lady detective added, “that’s when I started the car. Then Matt buzzed that he had spotted Sylvia and that she had taken off in another vehicle that had been waiting.”
“Nzuri?” I asked. “Would you or Lauer call back those two uniformed officers? Doctor Love had help, didn’t she, Agent Templeton?”
The agent from Interpol said nothing.
“The detectives and my sister had earwigs, but it was Nzuri coordinating their operation and relaying information from the radio. You were not involved, because you were not in the Office. If you were, you would’ve been alerted to Nostalgia’s involvement — but you already knew that because you and Doctor Love were at the park, a few cars up the street from where Valentine and I were.”
The agent didn’t move.
“Sergeant Valentine told me, when we arrived at the park, that we wouldn’t be using any earwigs because we were ‘Plan B,‘ a last minute decision implemented for my safety.”.
I looked around the room. All eyes were on Templeton.
“I believe that you and Sylvia were planning to be my ride, but when you came back for me, I was already gone. That’s when you both realized that I must be closer to the truth than you had originally thought!”
“You have an over-active imagination, Mister Rabbit.” Templeton said breaking his silence. “And, you are very entertaining. Please, continue.”
“Sylvia went to the park, while you waited in the car. You wanted her to confirm Nostalgia was there. You both believed that Jane Doe in the City Morgue was my sister, until I received Doctor Gardner’s call.”
“It was when I confirmed the body was not her that the two of you had to redouble your efforts: throw me off track and dispose of Nostalgia You couldn’t hide killing us both because everyone in the field operation would be implicated: namely, the sergeant, both detectives and yourselves!”
“You are grasping at straws, Mister Rabbit,” Templeton observed.
“Am I, Sir? When I assisted Nzuri with the encryption levels on my computers, we were all in your office. All the folders were accessible except for one. It was labeled Traitor, if I remember correctly.”
“Detective,” I called out to Margolis. “Do you remember how many keystrokes the answer was?”
“Five,” she replied. “We never did figure it out.”
“I suggest you try, Peggy, for Peggy Shipton, who became Benedict Arnold’s second wife. I originally that Gates, who was the general that Washington appointed over ARnold, but Horatio Gates was not a traitor, he was merely a hindrance to Arnold’s chances for advancement.”
“Well done, Rabbit!” Nostalgia cheered as she parted the curtains and finally joined everyone. “You still remember your American Revolutionary history!”
“You could save us the trouble, Gia,” Nzuri added, “And just tell us what is in that encrypted folder?”.
“Almost two years of documents regarding money, securities and objects signed into lockup, then signed out less than twenty-four hours later and never returned,” she answered. “And the signatures on them were Doctor Sylvia Love and Agent Templeton!”
“Well, that completes this weird jigsaw puzzle, except for one piece,” I announced to everyone. “Who was the Jane Doe in the morgue?”
Nostalgia stood behind Margolis and whispered in her ear. The detective reacted catlike and pulled her sidearm, pointing it across the room … at me?
“Her name was Jane,” my sister answered. “She came from New Orleans to talk to me about a case she was trying to solve that had a lot of similarities to mine. She wanted to compare notes and leads.”
“So, she was a local detective?” I asked waiting for more information.
“No, Rabbit,” Gia continued. “She was from Interpol. Jame Templeton from Interpol.”
“Two Templetons?” I shot a glance at the male agent, who was preparing to stand as Detective Margolis cocked her sidearm. “Really?”
“No, Mister Rabbit, Ms. Templeton was Interpol.” the false Templeton spoke up. ?I acquired her identification after she, unfortunately, lost a heated argument.”
He continued. “She lied when she introduced herself to me. My job was to remove your sister. I discovered my mistake after searching her purse, and found Ms. Templeton’s Interpol badge. I decided to use it to my advantage to get closer to Nostalgia, but the closest I got was to you.”
“I’ve heard enough,” Valentine bellowed reaching for his second set of handcuffs before using them on the manwho did not resist arrest.
A few minutes later, goodbyes were exchanged with Nostalgia’s team. After they left, all who remained were Doctor Gardner, Nostalgia, MiLady and I.
“There are only four questions still left unanswered, Gia,” I mentioned as the four of us walked to the hospital elevator.
“And what are those, Dearie?” she chimed sweetly, content that this madness was finally over.
“Who was he really? The fake Templeton?”.
“I don’t know,” Gia replied. “Hopefully, we will find out soon, and who put him up to it.”
I hope so too,” MiLady nodded.
“Question Two: Why my computers?”
Nostalgia smiled wide. “Because they were Windows XP devices and too easy to encrypt.”
The coroner and my girl giggled, as we entered the lift and proceeded to underground parking.
“So, what is your next question, Rabbit?”
“Who did you call nine times?”
“Oh, was it really that many? I lost count.”
“Gia,” I paused, “Do I need to practice my cricket swing on somebody’s head?”
“Oh, no, Rabbit! It was nothing like that! Valentine was my inside man at the police station verifying what my leads were hinting at until my work physically took me there.”
“But, Doctor Love …”
“Sylvia was working another case, which we did not know overlapped at the time. Does that help you?”
“I think so,” I mumbled, trying to re-organize everything into place in my cluttered, little mind.
“Good!” she smiled. “Final Jeopardy, what is your question?”
“Why did you shred my paper files?”
“I *told* you,” she fumed, “It was an accident!”
“Three pages is an accident, Gia, but you shredded over three hundred of them!”
“They weren’t important! They were completely unrelated persons.”
“If only …” I ranted. “If only that could be applied to odd, destructive, *older* foster sisters!”
“Nostalgia,” MiLady quickly interrupted. “I need to ask you something.”
Gia turned and smiled.
“Why were Doctor Love and the fake Agent Templeton tampering with evidence in the first place? Were they trying to hide something bigger than would create some massive repercussions, if it were made public?”
Nostalgia and Doctor Gardner laughed.
“You watch far too many crime shows on the telly, Dearie,” Gia answered, as she leaned over and bumped shoulders with the coroner.
When the elevator doors finally parted, we split into two pairs. MiLady and I went left, as Nostalgia and Gardner moved right to our respective vehicles.
“Try to keep out of trouble,” I begged with a wave goodbye. “Please!”
“No guarantees, Rabbit!” she waved back.
After we drove off, Gardner started her car and looked at her BFF.
“We need to be careful what we say around her, don’t we?”
Nostalgia nodded curtly, as Hilda pulled out of the parkade and onto the street.
“Do you think we can recruit her? We’ve got an opening now with Sylvia gone.”
“No, my brother won’t allow it, Hilly.”
“So, we don’t tell him,” the doctor giggled, “Besides, we’re going to need someone like her in Europe to deal with that other problem we have brewing.”
After struggling up the porch steps, we got through the door and collapsed upon the couch.
“I don’t ever want to do that again,” I confessed. “I’m getting too old for this Spy-versus-Spy nonsense.”
“I don’t know,” my girl smiled. “I thought it was fun!”
“FUN?!? You weren’t the one getting shot at! Or hit over the head!” I reminded her while rubbing my head, but I wasn’t getting any sympathy votes.
“I have a question for you, Dear’st.”
“And what is that, MiLove.”
“Didn’t it seem too clean to you that both Sylvia and Templeton were involved?”
I sat up straight hugging a throw pillow. “What do you mean? Both their signatures were in the log books.”
“I know, but it just sounds like that’s what we were meant to think and meant to find.”
“I hate to say it: but Nostalgia’s right; you’re over analyzing, Dear’st. Drink?” I asked as I went to the kitchen and looked in the wine cooler.
When I returned with a couple glasses and a chilled bottle of her favourite Spanish wine, my girl sat up and crossed her arms.
“I don’t think so,” she began. “Did anyone else review hat Doctor Love had found during her investigation, before she was arrested?”