This was a hard chapter for me to write, and it's really like a springboard chapter to get to the others. So if you don't like it, consider it a necessary evil. If you do like it, feel free to say so. :D
Don ran into Colby and David in the lobby, each with a tray of coffee in hand.
“Hey, one of those for me?”
“You know it,” Colby replied, pulling a large black coffee out of his tray. “With any luck, it’s going to be a long day. Figured we’d need them.”
Don took a deep breath of the steam coming from his cup as they got in the elevator. “You two come in together?”
He would have missed the look that passed between them if he hadn’t been looking for it. “Yeah, my car’s in the garage,” Colby replied. “David gave me a ride in.” Those two had been dancing around each other since Colby had joined the team four years ago, and it hadn’t taken long for them to become close friends. He’d worried their friendship had been damaged beyond repair when they had thought Colby was a spy for the Chinese, but now it looked like they were stronger than ever.
The elevator doors opened and they walked in together, David and Colby dropping coffee on everyone’s desks. David looked over at the conference room where Harris was bent over a sheaf of paper, scribbling notes. “Did he stay here all night?”
Don followed David’s gaze. “No, he went back to his hotel around midnight.” In fact, Don had driven him there, since Xander had taken a taxi to the FBI building. When he turned back, both agents were looking at him. “Couldn’t let the guy stay here by himself all night,” he reasoned. “I’m the lead agent, I get the short straw.”
Another look. “Pretty sure it’s the other way around, actually,” from Colby.
He didn’t respond because Nikki, Liz and Charlie came out of the elevator, all looking a little better for having had the last sixteen or so hours off. Still, they all made a beeline for the coffees on their desks.
“Well, let’s see what he’s got for us,” Don said, not feeling terribly optimistic as they filed into the conference room.
Xander looked up as they entered, and he smiled distractedly at Don. Don took a seat near the front and propped his feet up on the table. Colby was leaning against the other table, David next to him in a chair. Liz and Nikki were across from them, and Charlie was near Xander, not-so-stealthily peering at the papers scattered in front of him.
“Okay, I am happy to report that I have a new angle for us to approach this case from. I haven’t found anything else useful yet, so we have to exploit this one as much as we can.” Xander pulled three pictures from the folder in front of him. Each was a shot of the front of the church where each victim was found. “As you obviously know, you’ve had trouble narrowing down the churches because they have nothing in common. Different locations, different religions, different denominations, etcetera. However, it turns out that the main entrances of all three churches, and therefore the altar where the victims were found, face almost due east, with a difference of less than ten degrees in each direction.”
Don leaned forward, his feet hitting the floor with a thud. L.A. alone had more than two thousand churches all together, more if their guy branched out to surrounding areas, and Charlie hadn’t had enough information to narrow down the list. If Xander was right, this could be a big break. He didn’t bother to hide his surprise or his interest, and he noticed similar reactions from his team.
“It’ll take a lot of legwork to sort out which ones face the right way,” Xander was saying. “But it’s the first thing we’ve found besides the bodies themselves that link the murders together.”
“Does the fact that the altars face east tell you anything about the killer?” Liz asked. He’d wondered who would be the first to ask that question. His money had been on David, admittedly, but Liz had been a close second. David and Liz were good at working outside angles, connecting things to a bigger picture, while Nikki tended to focus on smaller things. Colby rarely spoke during briefings; he liked to take time to let all of the information settle in his head, Don knew. Out in the field, he was their hands-on guy. He was great with evidence, interviews, people.
“That’s what we’re going to be looking into,” Xander replied. “We need to explore everything we can about this, because right now it’s all we have. I’ve been involved in compiling a few databases about these types of cases that I think will really help us out here.” Xander glanced over at him before continuing. “Obviously, it’s up to Don how we divide the work, but I’d like to interview the friends and family of the victims again myself, if I can.”
Don looked around the room while he thought. Charlie was already scribbling on a pad of paper, and David and Colby were talking quietly to each other. Liz was looking at the crime scene photos, and Nikki was looking unimpressed. Don himself was impressed that Xander picked out that detail about the churches, and furious with himself that he had missed it. He knew realistically that Xander knew the types of things to look for in these cases – that was what made him the expert
- but it didn’t change the instinctive sting of failure he felt with himself.
Still, it wasn’t a lot to go on. As he checked out his team, Don could see he wasn’t the only person who was skeptical and a little disappointed with the results of their expert. However, he had figured out a key aspect of the ritual when none of them had, and he’d been here for less than twenty-four hours.
He scrubbed his hands through his hair, getting his thoughts in order. “David, you’ll go through Harris’ databases and any other place you can think of. Nikki and Liz, congratulations, you get to narrow down our list of churches.” Normally there would be playful complaints, but they were all ready to finally get somewhere with this case. “Colby, you’ll take Harris around to do the interviews, but I might meet up with you later. Charlie, if you give me a minute, I’ll take you back to the university.” Charlie waved a hand without looking up from what he was doing. He gestured towards the door. “Let’s go.”