Knock Knock (Part II)

Kevin and the two officers did a sweep of the exterior of the apartment building finding that there was an exit to the rear of the building but the tall privacy fence would likely keep anyone from escaping without going around front. Barking could be heard from the other side of the fence and Roe hoped that would back up his choice to not post someone at the back door with their limited resources.

“Whichever two of you are most senior come with us, the other remain outside and watch for anyone trying to come out and stop them. I have no idea who the roommate is or what they look like so stop anyone,” Kevin instructed.

“Got it sir,” the driver of the patrol car offered, he moved to the sidewalk of the residence and took up a position shifting from time to time to keep situational awareness around him as well.

“You’ll take up the rear position and keep to the door keeping an eye on the hallway and any attempts to leave while we search the apartment,” Kevin instructed the senior officer.

“Got it,” he said, with a nod.

“Let’s go,” Kevin said, readying his weapon to pull if needed.

“Ready,” confirmed Buzz, used to needing that verbalisation. One hand on his holstered but available handgun, one hand studiously avoiding the handrail (learned that one the hard way), Buzz took the stairs in an easy, steady rhythm, keeping enough room behind Roe to enable him to move as needed while remaining close enough to be useful.

Kevin took the lead up the steps to the apartment in question; they met nobody in the meantime as they reached the third floor apartment that belonged to Morales and her roommate. He stopped taking up position on the far side of the doorway and motioning for Buzz to take the other side.

A deft and silent nod, and Buzz adopted the position across from Roe. The smell permeating this building was Low Level Nasty. Urine and stale smoke. Dog dirt, sweat and the hint of yesterday’s take-out. Buzz waited, listened, gave his okay/ready sign and watched for the go-signal.

Kevin held up his hand and motioned a thumbs up and thumbs down and waited for the response of the other two. When they both gave him the thumbs up he put a single finger up, a second, and then a third before his hand made a fist and he began pounding on the door.

“Federal Agents!” Kevin yelled loudly while he paused knocking.

Quick shuffling and a string of curse words could be heard from the other side of the door as the chain slid free and the lock clicked. The door pulled open to reveal a particularly disgruntled looking young woman, clad in leggings and a slightly too tight tank top and pink fuzzy slippers. A cigarette dangled from between her fingers and her hair was up in a tightly slicked back ponytail. 

Ky’ira stood back from the door, eying the agents beyond suspiciously. “I didn’t do nothing,” she said.

Inside there was a wry grin, but outwardly – Buzz was pure seriousness wrapped up in a steady, broad frame and a good, solid stance. He kept his gaze quietly mobile, sweeping the scene behind this stranger for as much as he could currently see.

“Coast Guard Investigative Service,” Roe announced, “please put out the cigarette and step back, ma’am,” despite the words including a request his tone did not even for a second deny the fact that it was an order.

“We’re looking for Robert Malcolm and Jasmin Morales,” Kevin added, waiting for the girl to comply.

Ky’ira looked at the two skeptically, popping the cigarette in her mouth and taking a long drag before saying. “ID first and then I’ll put out the cig.”

Roe swept his raid jacket aside on the right where his shield and holstered weapon could be seen and then from his left pocket pulled his cred pack out and opened it for her holding it in front of her.

“If you wouldn’t mind, I’m not a smoker,” he said, politely.

The young woman sniffed, inspecting the ID for a long moment before shrugging. “Come on in,” she said, leaving the door without waiting to see if they were following. She made her way over to the ashtray and snuffed the cigarette after taking one last long draw from it. 

Still silent, Bradley maintained an active vigil. No sounds besides Fuzzy Slippers, no sign of danger or company, but these things could always go south if attention wavered. 

“So what’d Jasmin do?” she asked, curious. “‘Cause she’s sure as hell on my shit list right now.”

Buzz shifted position, checked over his shoulder to the corridor either side and ruminated for a second. Shit list. Interesting. He was about to ask for more detail, but that second of delay gave Roe the verbal floor again. 

“We think that she is assisting or has convinced her boyfriend, Robert Malcolm, to leave the Coast Guard on unauthorized absence,” Kevin responded, trying to keep lingo out of it. He placed his creds back in his pocket and then adjusted his jacket. “It could be considered a crime if he doesn’t return himself within a certain time.”

Of course only part of that was true at this point. If he had returned within thirty days of being on unauthorized absence he would likely not be charged with going AWOL/UA. However, because they had proof that he intended on deserting the Coast Guard by fleeing to another country he could now be charged as a deserter despite the timeline.

“Can we come in and look around for them?” Kevin asked. It was the girl’s choice as they had no warrant and while they could get one that would take time he’d rather not spend.

“Be my guest,” Ky’ira responded with a snort. “They aren’t here, though. I haven’t seen ‘em since Saturday and they can stay gone as far as I’m concerned.” Her expression turned sour. “Bitch, stole my wallet. That thing had all my cards, my fucking drivers license.” Her fingers twitched, as if they recalled she had been holding a cigarette, but not that she had put it out and she looked down at them irritated. “But sure. Go ahead. Look around.”

“Would you mind having a seat on the couch, please,” Roe said, motioning into the room. “Officer, if you could sit with her and watch the door, Special Agent Bradley and I will conduct the search.”

The young woman wrinkled her nose, annoyance in the lines of her body, but flounced down onto the sofa anyway, arms crossed over her chest and feet propped on the middle cushion. 

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Buzz, with a matter of factness that was coloured all Southern politeness. He waited for her compliance to Roe’s instructions, then crossed the threshold into the apartment and checked for other doors from the living room from hell. “Which one is yours?” He asked the roommate, nudging an open door with a booted foot as the question sounded into their mutual space. 

“That one,” Ky’ira snipped. “Go ahead and look. They ain’t hiding in my underwear drawer, though.” Her expression gave the impression she thought she had something particularly amusing, but was disappointed to find no one agreed.

When Kevin followed Buzz down the hall he readied his hand at his weapon and motioned for him to open the door. They entered the bedroom that belonged to Morales. It was a complete mess with things thrown around the room. There was a messy pile of clothes and dresser drawers opened.

“Check the closet,” Kevin said, motioning to the door that was closed.  

“Looks like she left in a hurry,” said Buzz, opening that second door and stepping back as a couple of propped up boxes fell from height to land at his booted feet. “Or,” he added. “She’s just really untidy…”

“My hunch is in a hurry,” Kevin said, as he relaxed his stance. They were clearly not in this room at least.

Buzz pushed the remaining clothes to one side and checked the space behind them, finding only more shoe boxes, random shoes, piles of magazines and general personal detritus. The boxes that had fallen had a mess of old photographs, more shoes and clothing accessories spilling from them. 

“Clear,” Bradley noted, dragging the box of photographs out into the open. Dog-eared small echoes of someone’s life going back a couple of years by the look of it, printed out on photo paper in color. “When we’re done I’ll bring these with,” he stated. Never hurts to have more information on old haunts and habits, right?

“Leave it for now, we have to clear the rest of the apartment,” Kevin said. “We’ll do the bathroom, the other bedroom, and then the kitchen.” To be frank he had other thoughts about how they’d track their whereabouts but first they needed to finish searching the apartment.

A firm nod in the affirmative, though like Roe, Buzz figured this search wasn’t going to reveal anyone hiding in the bathroom. “Kinda hoping they’re not dumb enough to be curled up in the bathtub,” he said with a wry smile, then with a far more professional demeanor, moved with Kevin to clear the other rooms.

The two men searched the entire place deciding that the two suspects were indeed not present in the apartment. Kevin led Buzz back to the living room where he approached Ms. Jones.

“Do you mind looking to see if they used any of your credit cards or bank cards since your wallet went missing?” Kevin said, standing a few steps away from her to not crowd her.

Buzz stood to the short side of the sofa, phone in hand ready to make the call. A rental car? A train ticket? Or were they just taking the bus and using Jasmin’s cash?

Ky’ira made a face. “If they haven’t used ‘em then why the fuck did she bother taking it?” 

“If you could just look at the statements, please ma’am,” suggested Buzz, very politely. It might not feel like it to this young lady, but he was genuinely concerned for Robert Malcolm’s welfare right now and any solid leads that indicated a plan of any kind would definitely help.

Still, she complied, snagging an overlarge smart phone from the coffee table. It had been face down on the table, sparkly gem-encrusted case featuring like a lump of plasticized children’s jewelry had melted together. Her eyes scanned the screen, thumbing off notifications until she opened the app for her card. A quick scroll brought out a snort of annoyance. 

“Idiot,” she mumbled under her breath before turning the phone to face the two men. “Frontier airlines and looks like a Sunoco. God, why that one? At least buy cheap gas if you’re gonna stick me with the bill.”

Buzz exhaled softly. Perfect. They were planning a getaway. Alive and everything.

Phone screen turned back around and Ky’ira continued scrolling, only mildly relieved to find those were the only two charges so far.

“Frontier airlines,” Roe said, hoping that they weren’t too late to catch them. “Can I take a look at the two charges?” he asked, hopefully.

Ky’ira pursed her lips, twisting them to the side with hesitation. Finally, though, she relinquished the gaudily sparkly phone with a warning not to touch anything else.

“Looks like they were both charged yesterday,” Kevin announced after a moment, his disappointment evident. “Not enough information for a real location, just a store number. We can have this checked out while we’re heading to the park…”

Bradley nodded. “I’ll make the call once we’re on the road,” he agreed, simply. A lead! Thankfully, something to go at that finally felt like a promising leap forward. “Thank you, ma’am,” he told Ky’ira. He was about to mention the proximity of police officers in case Ms. Jones wanted to report her wallet stolen, but he left that alone for now.

“Ms. Jones, any chance you’ve ever been to the cabin that the Malcolm family owns in the state park?” Roe asked, handing her phone back over to her and pulling his cred pack out for a business card he kept stuffed behind his ID.

“Nah,” she replied, taking her phone back and inspecting it.. “I barely met Robbie. They were always back in her room… doing stuff…” Her eyebrows raised suggestively. “You know what I mean…” A shrug ended the train of thought before she added. “Didn’t ever get to know him or anything.”

“If you hear from them, don’t tell them we’re looking for them, just give me a call,” he said, presenting her with the business card.

She snagged the card between her pointer and middle finger, waving it. “If I hear from them, sure,” she said. 

“Thanks,” Roe said, looking to Buzz to see if he had anything else to add. Eye contact followed by a slow shake of Bradley’s head and, with the new lead obtained and a little more to go on, they both left the apartment. 

“If you guys could keep an eye on the apartment today, I’d appreciate it,” Kevin said, to the officer as they made their way down the stairs.

“Of course, sir, happy to help,” the officer said.

“We need to head to the cabin and see if they’re still there or have been there,” Kevin said, to Buzz as they walked outside. “We can call Passolini and Belton on the way and fill them in and arrange some backup to check whatever airport the tickets are for and hope they’re for today and not yesterday.”

“Cabin it is then,” Bradley agreed, as he stopped and looked back up at the apartment block for a moment. The stark difference between this place and the Malcolm parents’ place was jarring, but he’d lived cheap when he was young and in love too. “I’ll bring Angie up to speed while you drive, or you wanna trade?” He offered amicably. “Either way, two leads puts us in a way better place than we’ve been so far. I gotta half decent feeling about this,” Buzz said, a hint of optimism coloring his features. 

“The wonders of Bluetooth my friend,” Roe said. Driving would be a good outlet for his natural excitement from the hunt that was now on.

“Let’s go,” he said, motioning toward the car. 

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