AWOL (Part 2)

10 MAY 24, 00:30
TRACEN Cape May, NJ – CGPD Station, Conference Room

Hannah arrived at the station at 00:20 and looked for a cup of coffee. Finding one she headed for the conference room and took her seat, a note pad in front of her for any notes that needed taken.  

“Petty Officer Belton,” Brian said as he walked into the room. He too, was carrying a cup of coffee and a couple of files in his hands. “Sorry to wake you guys up this late at night or early in the morning, depending on how you look at it.”

Hannah looked up “No worries sir.” She said as she took a drink of coffee “We’re used to these calls. It always seems the odd things happen in the early hours.” She said with a slight smile as they waited for the rest of the team to arrive.

Erin arrived at the office with a few minutes to spare. She was holding almost empty cup of black coffee she bought on the way in one hand and a small bag with essentials in the other. She was still testing the area for a good coffee and so far, she did not find a place worth returning. She liked her coffee strong. She tossed the cup into the bin by the reception and smiled seeing Hannah and Brian. “Looks like I am on time.” She said looking around. 

Angelica arrived soon after, being woken up at 11pm was very low on her favorite things list. But she did it because it was the job, she had her own cup of coffee, and took a spot to watch the situation.

Roe entered the office next unlike the others he was not sporting a cup of coffee instead he was holding an energy drink, “morning?” he said, as if he wasn’t sure it qualified quite yet. He looked around the room and did a quick head count, “just waiting on Buzz then.”

Hannah nodded to Roe as he entered. She took a long drink of her coffee, it was nearly empty and she would need a refill at some point. She wondered what had gotten them out of bed at o’dark thirty. Not that it was unusual, but it was not a common thing.  

He walked purposefully in as if it were bright and early in the actual morning, hitting the 00:25hrs mark perfectly and smelling of shower gel. Buzz gave Roe a curt nod, placed his fruit smoothie down on the desk and took a seat next to Angelica. “Sorry I’m late, sir,” he noted, aware he was the last one in.

“No problem Buzz, anyway, I was informed by the Chief of Police that a recruit has gone AWOL. I would like to turn the floor over to Chief Lamar,” Kevin said.

“Morning,” Brain replied as greeting everyone around after being introduce. “At 2000 hours Recruit Robert Malcolm failed to return from weekend liberty. Last contact with the recruit was Saturday evening. Saturday evening Recruit Malcolm was out with fellow recruits at a local watering hole. Recruits remember him being stand-offish, depressed, etc. After a call from an unknown person, Malcolm continued to get worst and highly intoxicated.”

“Follow-up with Company Commander, MKC Yolanda Hernandez, regarding the recruit confirmed the depressive persona of the recruit. No records of information being report to medical.”

Brian continued on talking about Malcolm. He shared the address of ‘2965 Renwick Drive’ being the last known address and the home to a Melissa Malcolm, formerly Sluss, his mother. Brain also noted a Green, 2000 Dodge Stratus as the registered car for the recruit.

“Isn’t that the same company commander involved in the assault case?” Kevin asked, looking to Buzz and Angelica.

“Yeah.” Angelica said making a note of that fact, “She was our victim.”

Buzz nodded. He’d checked into Thomas not Hernandez, so let Angie do the talking for the moment. 

“We should think about a possible link to the two, and I’d not be surprised if the MKC isn’t forthcoming here either,” Roe said. “We also need to look into why concerns weren’t’ reported to medical. We have mental health professionals that should be available to these recruits.”

“We’ll have a conversation with Hernandez,” Buzz confirmed, concern furrowing his brow. “No sign of anything from him since Saturday? Contact, social media, nothing?” He knew that’s what they’d said, but from bitter previous experience this sort of situation always made his brain leap to the worst possible scenario.

“As far as we were able to ascertain, nothing,” Brian responded. “However, we have only had this for roughly two hours prior to contacting CGIS.”

Erin listened to the conversation sitting quietly. Her eyes switched between each person speaking. “What do we know about Hernandez? What kind of person is she? Could she be on it?” She finally spoke noticing that the company commander was getting already some attention. “What about this assault case? What happened exactly?”

“Easy,” Roe said, turning to Erin who in his opinion was starting to ramble. “You two want to fill the rest of us in on the MKC?” His attention turning back to the other agents.

Erin raised her hands defensively at Roe and went quiet letting others to talk. The brunette meshed her fingers on the table watching others now. 

“She had an altercation with a Seaman, Eric Thomas,was his name,…” Angelica consulted her notes, “at the Base Exchange, when I interviewed her she refused to testify or even talk about it.” That got a shrug, “But there might be a connection there.”

“Perhaps we need to look into the confidence level we have in the MKC’s ability to command,” Kevin said flatly. Having been the only person at this table to ever have the honor of being a Chief Petty Officer the fact that the title of chief could be tarnished by this woman pissed him off.

“My gut says she needs some help on that front,” noted Buzz, his tone neutral. “Just heresay from the troops though,” he added.

Hannah looked around the room. “Do we know if Malcolm and Thomas had any interactions with each other? Who were the recruits he was with at the bar?”  

“Malcolm is a recruit and Thomas was assigned to permanent party so likely no connection there. We would have to look to see what recruit company that Thomas was part of to see if the MKC was an instructor or they had any in common. Did you guys happen to ask if MKC was his company commander?” Kevin asked, looking to Angelica as she seemed to answer for the two most.

She paused, “She wasn’t forthcoming on my interview, clammed up.” she paused, “But I can check training schedules if we need that information.” She hadn’t asked that question, rookie mistake.

“Why don’t we have YN2 look into that,” he said, nodding to Hannah. “I’d like for Buzz to work with the Chief to figure out where people have looked so far and coordinate the actual search effort. I’ll make contact with the family of the kid and see what we can find from there if it hasn’t been done yet,” Roe said, looking to Lamar. “Then I’ll give Philly PD a call and give them a heads up. Passolini and Reeves can work on starting to interview his battle buddy and I’ll think on the strategy of approaching the MKC once we see if Thomas might play into this at all. Question, comments, concerns, rude remarks?”

“Battle buddy?” Erin echoed Roe. “Do we know who is Robert Malcolm’s battle buddy?”

“Apparently not a thing in the navy, but a battle buddy or a battle as it’s sometimes shortened to is essentially your partner. These two people usually move everywhere together and when on base do it all together. One would be in the top rack the other in the bottom,” Roe explained. 

Erin nodded. “Do we know who is it? Or do we need to find out first?”

“Lamar?” Kevin asked, looking to the police chief. 

“According to the jacket, Norbert Brakus” Brain responded very flatly. It was getting to become a game of how many questions could he answer that were in the jacket that he provided Roe early on. 

Hannah nodded at her assignment and made some notes on the notepad in front of her. Her notes included training schedules for the last several months, including the names that she would need to research. She hoped that they would find the recruit alive and well and she was wanting to know why the MKC had failed to report the depression to the medical department.  

“No worries, boss,” Buzz accepted gracefully. He looked to Chief Lamar then too. “I’d like to speak to the family direct, and also pull Malcolm’s phone records. That incoming call seems to be a key factor, and we’re already behind on the time.” So much could have happened since Saturday night and he had that itch to get searching. Robert Malcolm was someone’s son as well as one of their own and that paternal sense of duty to protect ran deep. 

“Got it boss.” Angelica looked over the notes she had taken. Missing persons cases always worried her, because you had a limited window. “Suggestion, we should get an alert out let the public help.”

“We need to confirm the family is aware first,” Roe said. “And remember as much as his safety is a concern he is AWOL and that is a very serious offense. I’m not sure how helpful that will be for us this early in the game, I don’t believe that any useful headway besides checking the local bars has been made by PD,” Roe said, turning to Lamar. It was the first time that Roe had spoken out loud outside of his team his displeasure in the CGPD and Chief Lamar’s leadership. It was also certainly the first time that Lamar would be made aware of such feelings.

Brain didn’t make any noise. He just sat there. He wasn’t impressed by Roe and his attitude being shown. In this case CGPD had less than 3 hours with the case before contacting CGIS. His team had completed preliminary interviews, got the personnel jacket together, and searched the local bars. Had they informed the family yet, no. It was to soon for them and they were already short-staffed. 

“Alright,” Kevin said. “I will make sure everyone has the profile as soon as I can get to my computer. Other than that, Agent Passolini I need a word in the office, Belton give us a few,” he said, wanting nobody but Passolini present for this.

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