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Inspired by True Events

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The FBI Wall of Honor lists only 36 "service martyrs," agents who died as a direct result of adversarial action. No one would have predicted Robert's name would end up engraved on that wall. It didn't make any sense. They shouldn't have been in that warehouse. They worked white collar crime, insurance fraud. They were good at it, too.

When the call came through for a team to investigate a lead into an illegal arms sale, Lincoln had balked at the assignment. It wasn't their area, he had argued. Why them? But Robert had looked on it as a lark, a chance to get out of the office on a nice day. Robert had joined the FBI after a stint of military service in some unnamed foreign country. He didn't like to talk about it. Lincoln had joined up after finishing his MS in Stats.

Robert liked kicking badguy ass.
Lincoln liked analyzing data.

He admitted that his plan to track where they were taking Robert's body was ill-conceived. For a top secret division, they were pretty easy to find once he had the camera feeds in hand. Getting the agents who were supposed to be guarding the facility to let him through had been ridiculously easy, too. All he'd had to do was show his badge, mention his partner's name, and tell them he had an appointment with Agent Dunham. It had gone fubar, as Robert would have put it, pretty quickly after that initial success. He hadn't expected Dunham's boss to call his SAC . He hadn't expected to be put on administrative leave, pending a disciplinary hearing.

"Agent Lee, I know what you're going through," his boss told him. "But you can't do this. You're interfering with an investigation that's now light years above your clearance level." Dickerson was a decent man but he had no idea what it was like to have the image of Robert's dead body replaying in his mind. He saw himself running after the perp, then returning to Robert's body, looking at Robert's face, then through it, watching as his features changed from a man he knew well into something unrecognizable, something monstrous. Every time, Robert's face dissolved as if from within, turning into a gelatinous mask. Every time, Lincoln arrived too late and the perp was already gone and Robert was already dead.

As far as he was concerned, he was still part of that investigation. No one was going to take that away from him, no matter how high her security clearance or how classified her department. He owed that much to Robert, to Lisa, to the kids. He owed it to himself.

He decided to file his report when he got back to New Haven. Those text messages from his boss could wait, too.

The coffee shop across the street from his hotel was a godsend; he hadn't been able to even think about sleep since they'd taken Robert's body away. The décor reminded him of that Edward Hopper painting that hung in the Art Institute in Chicago. The coffee was bitter and filmed with oil, but it was hot and plentiful, and the waitress seemed fine with him sitting there all night. Maybe he should call his friend at the Times. No, he'd hold that option in reserve for if he did get fired. In the meantime, he still had some resources and he intended to use them.

He was trying to flag down his waitress when he spotted her. Shit. He knew he shouldn't have set up shop so close to her apartment. This was just a few blocks from her place. Maybe she wouldn't see him.

"Agent Lee. What are you still doing in Boston? " What the hell did Dunham think he was doing?

"That's really none of your concern," he countered, looking at her straight in the eye.

She didn't look away. "It is if you're still here investigating this case," she said evenly.

She slid into the seat next to him. "I think we need to talk."

"No, we don't."

"We take the death of...an agent very seriously in our division. This investigation will have the highest priority."

She looked tense but sounded very in control, as though she was choosing her words carefully, as though her least mistake might cause him do something rash, something violent. He wanted her to understand he wasn't like that.

Suddenly he got it, why she was so anxious for him to leave it alone. "Robert wasn't the first, was he? There were earlier deaths. That's why your division showed up so quickly. There's a pattern that you're investigating."

Olivia looked startled, but recovered quickly. "I'm not at liberty to say."

"Look, I need to know what you know. This is my partner we're talking about," he spat out.

She didn't appear fazed. "That's why you need to be off this case, Agent Lee. You've suffered a loss, you're in shock and you're not thinking clearly," she said earnestly."There's a reason you're on administrative leave. It's for your safety and the safety of the other agents working with you. You haven't even been debriefed. Your partner was married with two children, wasn't he?"

"Yes." He didn't need to say anything more. The murder had made Robert's life an open book.

"You were close to his wife and to his kids," she pressed him gently.

"Yes. They were like the family I never thought I'd find," he admitted.

"Then go home. Be with them. Grieve with them. They've already lost so much. Don't compound this tragedy by doing something stupid."

There was wisdom in those words, as much as he hated to admit it. He swallowed hard. "When...do you think you'll be ready to release Robert's body? I know she'll want a family service and there'll be an official ceremony as well." And I'll be asked to speak at both of them. He wanted to close his eyes and cover his face with his hands but he kept himself upright.

She hesitated. "I'm afraid we won't be," she said finally.

"What do you mean? What are you going to tell Lisa?" What am I going to tell her?

"I'm not sure about that," she admitted. "This is an unusual situation. Ordinarily in a case like this, we tell the victims' families that they're still missing but that we will continue to look for them..."

Who the hell were these people? "You mean you lie to them? You understand what you're saying? Those families are going to spend the rest of their lives wondering what happened to their loved ones, looking for answers. Can you imagine what that would be like? To have that... that hole in your life."

"This may not be what you want to hear but this is the truth. Everything you describe will be classified top secret and the documentation transferred to my division," she said resolutely.

"I don't understand. Why are you doing this?"

"We can't release their bodies because we would have to disclose how they were killed. That would call attention to our division and that we cannot have." She looked down at her hands and then back at him. "I've already said too much. I've got to go." She began to stand, but he put a hand on her arm, letting go when she pulled away.

"You need to listen to me. Robert died in the line of duty. Lisa deserves the truth, and so do her kids. There's already a paper trail a mile wide of this. My eyewitness account, my phone call to the ME, my official report. You can't bury it all. I won't let you."

She stared at him for a minute, then exited the booth and walked out.

He slumped back in his seat. That could have gone better but at least now he knew what he was up against. He began to pull out his phone, thought better of it and signaled the waitress. He needed to head back to Hartford, get to Lisa and the kids, tell them the truth before their government started telling them lies. If he was right, this case was just the tip of the iceberg.

~/~/~

"We have a problem, Agent Dunham. A serious problem."

"Yes, Sir."

"Agent Lee has allies, powerful ones. He's using every weapon at his disposal." Broyles tapped on the stack of papers in front of him. "We went ahead and released Agent Danzig's's body to his wife. But that hasn't stopped the barrage of FOIA requests, 200 so far, with no end in sight, or the phone calls from the press. The New York Times, the Boston Globe..."

Olivia stared straight ahead. She knew exactly what was coming next.

"He's still on administrative leave. His disciplinary hearing is scheduled for next week. You'll be called to testify against him."

She nodded. She was waiting for Broyles to pass judgment on her. She knew she was at fault. This man, Agent Lee, looked so much like the man she knew and had worked with on the other side that she'd made the critical mistake of trusting him with information he never should have been allowed to have.

"He is on a crusade. Without knowing the full extent of what the implications would be for national security, he wants to expose the actions of the Fringe Division to the public. You and I both know that can't happen."

"Yes, Sir."

"He'll have to be discredited, and dismissed. It's a damn shame. The man was a good agent. So was his partner."

"I know."

"How did this happen, Dunham?"

"I...I told him the truth about why we couldn't release the body."

Broyles narrowed his eyes slightly, then nodded in understanding. "I see. Make sure it doesn't happen again. You're dismissed."