Frozen Stiff - Chapter 3
“Ma’am?” a hand shook her shoulder. “Ma’am? You okay?” Chase opened her eyes, and then startled, confused by her surroundings. The stewardess leaned away from her. “I’m sorry, but we landed five minutes ago. I’m not sure if you have a connecting flight or…” Chase blinked, then realized that she was in an airplane and that it must have landed in Seattle. Part of her mind tried to tell her that this was a dream, but she knew better. The other thing, the thing with her sister, that had been a dream. Sort of. “Sorry,” she grumbled. “Must have fallen asleep.” The woman stood up straight and smiled. “That’s alright. It was an early flight—I would have fallen asleep myself if I didn’t have to work.” Chase nodded, and then undid her seatbelt. Now, without an ogre hanging on each of her shoulders, she could finally take a full breath, and did so in earnest. “Thanks,” she grumbled. She stood, stretched her calves, then checked her watch. It was close to lunchtime, and she had an hour or so to kill before boarding the final leg of her journey to Anchorage. Chase collected her bag from the overhead compartment. “Will my checked baggage be automatically transferred, or do I need to pick it up?” The stewardess, how was busy checking all of the overhead bins for forgotten carry-ons said, “It should go directly to your final destination. But I’d check with the boarding agent at the next flight just to be sure.” Chase thanked the woman again and disembarked. Ten minutes later, she found herself sitting in the busy food court, cramming over-salted French fries into her mouth, and watching whatever passed as cheese these days melt from the heat of the microwaved hamburger patty and drip onto the greasy plastic. She chased the fries with a sip from her Coke. Not the way I imagined it… For a split second, she debated calling up some of her old colleagues from her time as a Narcotics Officer here in Seattle, but quickly squashed this idea. It wasn’t worth the memories, drudging up a past that would only serve to reopen old wounds. She had spent a good three years as a Narc; the fourth, and what was to her final year, was blurred by an addiction that still scarred the inside of her arms to this day. Definitely best to just sit and eat this burger alone, chase it with the syrupy soft drink, and prepare for Anchorage. The problem with this, however, was that she had no idea what or who she was preparing for. For as long as she could remember, Chase wanted to be part of the FBI, but could never see a way to transition from law enforcement to the Bureau. That is until her brief stint as NYPD Sergeant of the 62nd precinct. In her first and only case—the so-called Download Killer, a disgruntled housewife who murdered young women, painted their lips with their blood, and then published stories about their deaths online—she had immediately brought in the FBI to lend a hand. FBI Special Agent Jeremy Stitts had helped her solve that case, and in the process, Chase had gained insight into why her application kept being overlooked. Stitts had spent a good deal of time observing her leading up to Ryanne Elliot’s untimely death, and Chase couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the entire case had been a sort of job interview. And she had passed… or so she had thought. Agent Stitts had given her a badge and a service pistol, but instead of whisking her off to Quantico for training, he told her to sit tight, to wait for the call. Chase wasn’t good at sitting and waiting. Too much time in her own head was never a good thing. Too much time to remember. It didn’t help that after the Download Killer, she had come home to an empty house. Her husband Brad had taken their seven year-old son Felix and had gone on an extended vacation with the boy. It wasn’t his fault, Chase knew. Brad had told her repeatedly that she put them second behind her job, and yet she had ignored him. And then, poof, they were gone. Even when she pleaded with Brad, even after she had resigned from the NYPD—granted she wasn’t so much eased out the door as pushed through by Internal Affairs—he said he needed time. That they both did. In the interim, She was able to see Felix whenever she wanted, but it wasn’t the same. Chase missed seeing his face every night, even if most of the time when she looked down on him he was already fast asleep in his bed. It wasn’t the same; they weren’t a family anymore, and this saddened her deeply. And it also reminded her of a past long before Seattle that she had worked hard to forget. I’m doing it for you, Georgina… I’m doing all of this for you. A month passed without a call from the Bureau, and Chase began to wonder. Be patient, she chided herself. They’ll call. But when one month bled into two, she hadn’t been able to resist the urge: Chase picked up the phone and dialed Agent Stitts. The man told her the same thing that she had told herself: just sit tight and wait. On the third month, just as she was considering appealing to her ex-partner and good friend Damien Drake to join his PI firm, if for nothing else than to pass the time, she finally got the call. And, like the flight she just experienced, it wasn’t what she had expected. There was no private jet as she had seen countless times on Criminal Minds, no glass conference rooms filled with high-tech equipment and a team of slightly autistic yet brilliant specialists. So far, it was just her, a douchebag TSA agent, an unhappy gate attendant, and two obese seat partners. Oh, and the burger. This burger. Chase took a bite, and then dabbed at the grease that dribbled onto her chin. She was nearly done her meal when an announcement informed her that Delta flight 0199 to Anchorage was starting to board. After a short debate about whether or not she should finish her quarter pounder, and deciding against it, Chase took out her phone and scrolled to her recent calls. All but one of the ten outgoing calls were to the same number. She dialed it now and waited until the answering machine picked up on the third ring. “Hey buddy, I hope you’re having a great day at school. I’m just calling to let you know that I probably won’t be seeing you this weekend.” Chase closed her eyes and tilted her chin to the ceiling. She fought back the hitch that tried to claw its way into her throat. “I know I promised to take you to the indoor water park, but I can’t this weekend. Mommy’s going away for work… to Alaska! It’s supposed to be super cold there, but I’ll make sure to keep warm. I’ll be sure to pick you up something nice, and I promise to take you to the water park when I get back. I love you, Felix. And I love you too, Brad. Talk soon. Chase.” Despite her best efforts, Chase was crying softly as she boarded the final flight of this leg of her journey.