Almost enough

Two months after the St. James case was closed, in the office Thomas Hoglund (Influence and Undercover [I&U] department head and acting Official and Unofficial Organizations [OUU] Co-Handler).

"What do you mean, a contract to stay out of it?" Manfred demanded.

"I mean, we can't follow it. It violates our contract with the Sabres." Hoglund said. "I'm sorry, MacCell, but I can't make an official case out of it."

"You have more then enough evidence that they'll gladly breach the contract!" Manfred exclaimed. "This isn't something you can just cover up with a 'case closed.' Half the agency's talking about this! Not only will you lose their respect, but-"

"Manfred." Hoglund stood up. "They're threatening us. Cassandra LaMensan and her newest emissary came here themselves to show me their terms and conditions, and gave threats in very. . . .vivid detail."

Manfred was surprised by the fact that Hoglund has used his first name (a rare occasion in it's own right), but not shocked by the fact that people had been threatened.

"Your family?" he asked.

Hoglund nodded. "Yes, my wife and children."

"Jane, as well?"

Hoglund nodded again.

"Who else?" Manfred asked.

"You, and several other, very important people in the agency. I won't tell you their names. Also in their list was Elle, and the other two kids who were victims during the case. Chanelle Lee, one of our greatest patrons among the civies invoved with the agency, and several other people who were important to those who were threatened. There was also. . ."

Hoglund paused, and looked uncomfortable.

"Who else?" Manfred asked, surprised at the length of the list.

"They showed me two people that I had never heard of on the list, and copies of Elle's adoption papers." Hoglund said quietly. "They know who her birth father is. He goes by an alias now, but they gave me a photo of him then, and now. There's no mistaking this guy."

"Who is it?"

"You can't tell this to anyone, MacCell. I'm only telling you because I don't think that you'll see Elle again, and she cannot know either. I met with him myself, and those are his wishes."   

Hoglund pulled four photos from his desk. "This first one is of Elle's most recent school photo, and these other three are the birth father at seventeen, at twenty-nine, during the adoption process. The last one of him is the most recent."  he slid the pictures across the table one by one as he named them, along with some other documents. Manfred's eyes widened in surprise.

"That's impossible!"  he exclaimed. "It's not right. How is she. . how is she sane? Do all of his children have the same mother as well? Why are the others so unstable?"

"Elle is the most stable among them. She may be a little eccentric, but very resourceful, like when she escaped on her way to the safe house because she wanted to help catch Zeke Arven. If my research proves correct, the mother of Elle's half-siblings is certifiable, but we're unsure of her current location."

"Then, what about Elle's birth mother?" Manfred asked.

"Elle's birth mother was a different woman. According to what I could dig up, she was a perfectly sane woman, no major medical problems either. She was average, you could say. But she was killed when Elle was two years old, and that's why her father went for the adoption process. There wasn't enough evidence for there to be a murder case, but I don't think I'm the only one who would say that her death wasn't an accident like the report does."

"So, I can't speak to him about this." Manfred said bitterly. "Does he know that you were going to tell me?"

"He knows that you know, but he requested that, unless it's life or death, you take it to your grave. He says that you would understand."

"I understand, but I'm not happy about it. If she ever asked me, I'd tell her the truth."

"I doubt that'll happen."

Milanesque, present day:

"So," Derek said. "You never told us where you were the last time you ditched."

"I haven't ditched for a long time now, and there was a huge lead that I needed to follow up on. Milanesque is home base now for a reason." Manfred replied.

"Yeah, but you never told us why you disappeared again. Usually there's some sort of clue."

"Three years ago, I left because I found a lead and couldn't involve the two of you. One year later, I gained enough confidence to ask for what I needed to know. Then, after a while, I decided that we should set up here because it's where the next lead is."

"But why can't you tell us?" Jerry asked. "Is it, the less we know the better, or you don't have enough evidence?"

"Both." Derek and Manfred said in unison.

"Then, when'll I know why we're hacking? How will I find what you need? You know I won't hack without a reason unless it's an emergency."

"I'll tell you why, soon. I just need to confirm that I know what I'm looking for." Manfred assured him. "Soon enough, I'll find out."

"This better not be a bloody wrong hunch of yours." Derek muttered.

"When was the last time I had a wrong hunch?" Manfred demanded.

Derek opened his mouth, hesitated, then glanced at Jerry.

"2011, the last time we saw Jane alive." Jerry confirmed. "I dunno where she is now, but we can find out any time."

"No." Manfred said, his voice thick with grief. "She's still alive, but I won't do something like that to her. Mistakes like that are one that I don't want to make again, ever. Besides that, she still has a family."

"Her sister. . .I heard that Jane's sister gave birth around that. . .time. . ." Jerry said, his voice getting smaller. "Man, I wish that this was over already. I mean, excited as I am about my computer, I hate buying black almost as much as you do."

"We'll fix this, soon." Manfred promised. "Maybe then we can all go home."

The End

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