A Jake Slade Universe Short: The Woman Who Knew Just Enough – To Be Killed

Tricia Rivers was on the cusp of breaking a large story about a rash of unexplained deaths and disappearances among the homeless population of the Washington, D.C. metro area. For the last year, she had been tracking down leads as to the potential killer in the community. She had first learned about the missing while volunteering the previous summer at the W.E.B. DuBois North D.C. community center. Her adopted work mom, Ms. Fay, had been worried that a couple of regulars had missed their meals and their beds in over a week. Tricia suggested in her naïveté that since they were homeless that made them more likely to be transient at least that’s what she had been taught at Georgetown.

Ms. Fay taught her that when White folk used the word, transient, it meant that they didn’t care enough to find out what had happened to the Black folk. Besides, these two had been coming to the DuBois center like clockwork for the last three years. No, she knew something was wrong. A week later, Ms. Fay informed Tricia that three more regulars had stopped showing up. Ms. Fay was deeply disturbed. Evil surely had a hand in the matter. Ms. Fay produced a pocket-sized Bible from her purse and handed it to Tricia.

“Dear but for the grace of God go we! You must be weary and have your affairs straightened with the Lord at all times because you never know how close Lucifer himself is.”

The worry on Ms. Fay’s face was contagious and Tricia volunteered to help her look for the missing.

Ms. Fay and Tricia began their search that night after their shift at the community center. Tricia was excited at the prospect of working on her first true journalism piece. Though she was convinced that the missing would turn up at other shelters, the case remained that very little was known about these people. Society preferred ignorance. The homeless were just the terrifying flashes of a nightmare that everyone would just as soon forget. Tricia would work to make sure that they were not forgotten especially here in the nation’s capital.

Her mission was soon frustrated. There were no good leads. The sleuthing pair visited the known, makeshift communities located inside of abandoned buildings and long-forgotten metro station access tunnels. No one knew had seen the missing in weeks. The search remained fruitless until Ms. Fay caught a lucky break. A regular at the center had approached her with information about the missing five. He was friends with two of the men. He informed Ms. Fay that they had both been patients at the methadone clinic. A little more digging, as Ms. Fay called it, revealed that they were all methadone patients at the same clinic. It quickly became the focal point of their investigation.

The pair decided to split their efforts. While Ms. Fay attempted to contact as many of the methadone clinic patients as possible, Tricia turned her research skills to the clinic. A few weeks passed, but Tricia could not gather much information on the clinic. It was a relatively new joint-venture between the local, district government and a recently formed Delaware based Limited Liability Company whose fictitious name was “Metro Treatment Facilities, LLC”. A more generic name was impossible. The LLC’s sole member was yet another Delaware based LLC by the name of “MTF Holding, LLC”. Both companies had been created a year earlier and other than an agent of service, one Attorney Carson Brown, and a P.O. Box, she could find nothing further.

Tricia met up with Ms. Fay to discuss her findings. She arrived at the Dubois center one afternoon after her classes had ended for the day and found Ms. Fay in the kitchen. Ms. Fay was pure nerves. Without speaking a word, she motioned for Tricia to follow her into an unoccupied residence room.

“What’s wrong Ms. Fay?”

“Oh Dear, we’ve got to stop this now! They might be…” Ms. Fay shook her head as she grappled with the sinister revelation, breaking quickly into quiet prayer.

“What are you talking about, Ms. Fay? What’s happened?”

“Dear, I met with one of the nurses at the clinic. She told me that she knows something is wrong. She’s seen regulars being taken from the dispensary window line and brought in for immunizations of some sort. She’s worked in these clinics for years and she’s never seen something like that, at least not without it being announced to the staff, in some way. She told me that she got curious one morning before the dispensary opened and she snuck into where all of the vaccines were being kept, only she didn’t find anything. It didn’t make sense to her. She says that vaccines are all kept there, under lock and key, to ensure proper procedures are followed. They are supposed to be logged into a logbook, a computer too, but that didn’t happen either. Later in the morning, one of the doctors shows up and begins administering the vaccines. She approached the doctor and questioned him about the vaccines. Well, he apparently got angry at her and the head nurse threatened to fire her for insubordination. She doesn’t like what is going on there and thinks it has something to do with the missing people.

“What does she think is really going on then?” Tricia probed.

“She doesn’t know hun. She’s just suspicious. She noticed that the patients who’d been getting vaccines were coming back for checkups and were suffering migraines. Then they all stopped coming one by one, apparently twelve so far.”

The news was shocking. What the hell was going on at that place? All they had was suspicion, some missing homeless people, a possibly disgruntled nurse, and a methadone clinic. These were not exactly facts that would make for a solid story and certainly nothing to go to the police about. Her journalistic zeal was giving way to something else, something that inhabited Ms. Fay’s eyes, face, and voice: fear. Tricia sat in her apartment later that night and reviewed the facts. She stared at the scant information about the clinic, pausing at the agent of service, Attorney Carson Brown. She entered his name into an internet search engine and found several hits, only one of which was registered with the Delaware Bar. Peculiarly, she found him to be a pretty high-powered partner at the firm of Bodner James, specializing in Intellectual Property within the Biotech Industry. So why would he be the listed agent of service for a single methadone clinic in the heart of D.C.’s Northwest? She decided to talk to her primary source. Unbeknownst to her, she was a dead woman as soon as she dialed the number.

Tricia believed that she was taking ample precaution by making up a cover story about a slip and fall that had occurred at the clinic. She harassed the attorney’s secretary enough over the next several weeks that she was finally patched through to Atty. Brown himself. She knew enough about journalism to know that once you had a potential, hostile source on the line, the only way you held their attention was by hitting them with enough facts to make them squirm, and by showing them that you were not to be ignored.

She opened with her ace and informed Atty. Brown about the possible illegal human trial being conducted at the clinic. Atty. Brown was silent.

Tricia asked, “Do I have your attention Atty. Brown?”

“Thank you for your concern. Ms. Rivers is it?” Tricia froze. “I am relieved to hear that you were not hurt in an unfortunate accident in my client’s facility. But do be careful. I hear that the neighborhood is not so safe. Have a nice day.”

Tricia remained frozen long after the call cut out. Now she was terrified. After enduring a sleepless night alone in her apartment, Tricia skipped classes and went instead to the shelter to talk to Ms. Fay. She and Ms. Fay agreed that it would be best to just leave the mystery well enough alone. Ms. Fay begged Tricia to stop coming around altogether, to concentrate on school, and to surround herself with the good White folk of Georgetown. She’d be safe there. Tricia obliged.

A few months later, as the fall semester wound to a close and the spring semester appeared on the horizon, Tricia’s fears had all but dissipated. She slowly forced herself to forget about the past summer, the Dubois center, and her journalistic mystery, but at night, alone in her apartment, she still jumped at shadows and startled at unidentified noises. She had once cherished her solitude, but now she longed for the company and relative security of a roommate.

The holidays washed away the last remnants of fear as the joyous festivities drove those from her mind. A night of drunken celebration, at Georgetown’s New Year’s party, found her reveling in the arms of a new and unexpected beau: a sweet, older guy, John, whom she’d met through mutual friends, at a bar, a couple of weeks prior. He was a divorcee who was now trying to find his way in life. He was kind-hearted, gentle, and heartbroken. His world had been taken from him. His ex-wife had taken custody of his daughter and fled to London to be with her British aristocratic parents who disapproved of their daughter’s union to the American. He was a hurt soul who she could nurse back to health. John had been a military man, a Marine, and he made those sleepless nights instantly disappear. Tricia took comfort in his muscular arms as she lay upon his strong chest. John’s firm hands softly combed through her hair, coming to a rest on the nape of her delicate neck and as she faded to her soothing slumber she inhaled his manly musk, a calming scent. She was safe.

© J. Manuel Writes

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