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Pleasant Grove, Alabama
February 7, 2008

Melissa hadn’t thought much of Skype at first – who would she want to talk to that wasn’t right in town? – but that was before Garrett barged into their lives. Not that it was exactly barging when Dad had wanted him there all along, but that was another story.

Now she counted her blessings for it, and made sure to finish her homework early on Thursday nights so she could talk to Garrett. (Dad didn’t always have time and Mom... well, she didn’t really get all of Garrett’s situation. Tonight, like most weeks, it was just Melissa.)

“Good news,” she said, after Garrett picked up the call. “I made honor roll again.”

Garrett grinned. “Told you you’d have no trouble. I’m proud of you, kid. Keep up the good work and you’ll have colleges begging to get you out of that hellhole.”

“Hey, I like it here,” Melissa protested, but not to pick a fight. Garrett had his reasons for not liking Alabama, and from what Melissa knew of the story, she couldn’t blame him one bit. Besides, just because she liked it there didn’t mean she never wanted to see anything else; even if she hadn’t before, Garrett’s stories about Philadelphia had her set on visiting him sometime. “What’s up with you?”

“Well. Remember that guy I mentioned a few weeks back?”

“The one you said could...”

Garrett nodded. “Meeting him on Saturday. This is happening, Mel. I don’t – shit, I still can’t get my head around it, a month later.”

“I’d imagine it’s a lot to take in. Are you sure you can trust this guy?”

“Oh, I don’t trust him as far as I could throw him, but... he’s not making this up. It’s way too crazy to bother making it up, if that makes sense. So I’m talking to him after my meeting on Saturday, and then I’m done. Don’t have to worry about it again.”

“That’ll be good, at least. Just... be careful?” Melissa wasn’t sure what to make of this; it still sounded like way too convenient of a chance encounter. But if nothing else, Garrett had earned the right to make his own choices, by now, and she wasn’t sure she’d ever seen her brother this happy.

“When am I not careful? These days, anyway. I’ll be fine, Mel, you’ll see.”

“You’d better be,” Melissa said, ending the sentence on a yawn. “I think I’d better get to bed. Talk to you next week?”

“Of course. Love you, Mel.”

“Love you too.” And with that, Melissa shut off Skype, then the computer, and didn’t think much else of it.

(Until the next Thursday came around, and it was Rosie on Skype, looking like she hadn’t slept in days and saying that no one had seen Garrett since Monday. No matter what they tried, they couldn’t find any trace of him.)

***

Lilly’s learned not to come into the office expecting anything in particular, by now. When she comes in expecting a quiet day she ends up in the middle of a hostage situation; when she’s braced for the worst, the most exciting thing that ends up happening is Nick trying to set up a Rocky Horror outing. On the balance, it’s better if she goes in looking for nothing more than a cold case getting dumped in her lap.

Today, it comes in the form of a college-age girl waiting by her desk. “Detective Rush?”

“That’s me,” Lilly says, offering a handshake.

The girl returns the handshake with the sort of thin smile Lilly sees a lot from people who come in. “Melissa Weaver. I’ve been building up the courage to do this since I got to Temple in September, but – I could use your help figuring out what happened to my brother.”

Lilly raises an eyebrow. Melissa’s got a strong Southern twang to her voice; it’s not an accent she usually hears. “He from around here?”

“No, Garrett’s from Alabama too, but he moved up here years before I met him. Long story.” Melissa fishes a photo out of her purse – a twenty-something guy with sandy blond hair, making a face at the camera, printed on regular printer paper. “Two years ago, he up and disappeared. His roommate was trying to look into it, but she said it never got any traction.”

Lilly nods. “I can definitely look into it. I know you weren’t here at the time, but do you know anything about what he was doing when he disappeared?”

“I know that a couple days before he went missing, he was supposed to talk to someone who could help him.”

“Help him what?”

Melissa blushes. “Get man parts.”

Well, that casts the photo in a whole new light. Lilly doesn’t say as much, though; she just looks at it again and says, “If you don’t mind, I think I need to get my partner in on this and get the whole story.”

***

“He was getting what?” Scotty says, when Lilly fills him in.

“I’m not entirely sure what she meant yet, but it sounds like her brother was trying to get some kind of back-alley sex reassignment surgery. Depending on what else she’s got, we might have to go through the Doe boxes.”

“But would it be John Does or Jane Does?”

Lilly sighs; she’s not looking forward to that mountain of work, either. “Hopefully not both, but we’ll see.”

After Lilly makes introductions, Melissa sighs and sits back down in front of Lilly’s desk. “I’m really not sure where to start, now that I think about it.”

“How about the beginning?” Scotty says.

“Thing is, I don’t know the beginning. We didn’t even know Garrett existed until six months before he disappeared.”

Pleasant Grove, Alabama
August 17, 2007

You knew it was hot, Melissa thought, when Dad was finally considering giving in and getting central air conditioning. He’d never felt the need before, no matter how many times Melissa and her mom ganged up on him; as long as the window unit in the den did the trick, he didn’t see a problem.

(Melissa ended up sleeping in the den a lot, when it got this nasty.)

She checked her email – the school supply list was in, as much as it ever was a supply list once you hit high school; she hoped the heat would be a little less oppressive when she had to sit in a classroom next week – and someone knocked on the door. She froze for a moment, since as far as she knew neither of her parents were expecting anyone, then went to open it.

There was a guy – Melissa thought it was a guy, anyway – a few years older than her standing on the doorstep. They just sort of stared at each other for a few moments before Melissa managed, “Can I help you?”

“Um. Hi.” The guy didn’t have any trace of a local accent. “Is – does Bill Weaver live here?”

“Yeah, just a sec.” Melissa turned her head to the rest of the house and called, “Dad! There’s someone at the door for you!”

She invited the guy in just as her dad got to the door. Dad took one look at the guy and went pale, like he’d just seen a ghost or something; it intrigued Melissa enough that she stuck around.

“So this is kind of awkward,” the guy said, “but... did you have a thing with Emily Lyon, way back?” He eyed Melissa for a second. “Six or eight years before she was born, I’d guess.”

Dad nodded. “Yeah. More of a thing for her. You’re her...”

“She named me Jennifer Mae, but I prefer Garrett.” There was a look in his eyes like he was expecting some kind of challenge, or to be turned out of the house for admitting it, but all Dad did was break into a huge grin.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying so,” he said, “but you’ve got a lot of your mother’s face.”

“He stayed with us a couple days, before his flight back here,” Melissa finishes. “Before he left he asked if he could take Dad’s last name when he filed the name-change paperwork – Dad was thrilled. We kept in touch after that, until he disappeared.”

Scotty frowns. “So your dad had a kid he didn’t know about?”

“Garrett’s grandparents were kind of assholes. And Dad was still in high school when Garrett was born, and on the wrong side of the tracks in their eyes. He thought he was going to his mother’s funeral when he went down.”

“Ouch. And how’d he get from there to the... ‘man parts’?” Scotty sounds extremely dubious, and Lilly can’t really blame him; fortunately, Melissa doesn’t seem to hold it against him either.

“A month or so before he went missing, he said he and his roommate bumped into a guy who said he could help. I don’t know exactly how he was going to do it, but I don’t think it was surgery. All I know is, beginning of February, he said he was going for it. By Valentine’s Day, his roommate hadn’t seen him in three days.”

It’s Lilly’s turn to frown; if it wasn’t surgery, what was it? But she lets that question be for now. “This roommate have a name?”

“Rosie. Rosie...” Melissa scrunches up her nose. “Barton, I think. I only talked to her a couple times before Garrett went missing.”

“Well, it gives us a place to start. We’ll look into it and see what we can find.”

Melissa smiles a little. “Thanks. Dad and I’ll sleep a lot easier when we know what happened.”

***

A little digging turns up a Rosie Barton working at a teen counseling center downtown; she’s one of a dozen or so, but the center focuses on LGBT issues, which is enough for Lilly to make that their first stop. Given the nature of this case so far, she doesn’t see that being a coincidence.

She and Scotty try to figure out what exactly Garrett Weaver was up to on the way, but no matter what they try, they can’t make it make any sense once they push past it being the reverse of Daniela’s situation. She really hopes Rosie can help them fill in the pieces on this one.

The counseling center looks like any other, if skewed slightly younger in age than most of the ones Lilly’s seen; she just nods at the few kids who make eye contact as she and Scotty head back to the offices. Fortunately, the office they’re looking for is only occupied by one person, a brunette who looks up from her papers and smiles when they knock on the door. “Hi, how can I help you?”

“Rosie Barton?” Lilly says, holding up her badge.

The smile drops off Rosie’s face with such speed that Lilly’s sure they have the right person. “Did you find Garrett?”

“No, but we’re working on it,” Scotty says. “And we were hoping you could help us fill in a few gaps in what his sister knows about the situation.”

“I’ll do what I can. I know it’s kind of a complicated situation.”

“You can say that again.”

“Melissa said he was planning to talk to someone who could help him get... certain physical matters sorted out,” Lilly says.

“A sex change,” Rosie says, fixing them both with a look. “I’m a big girl and I lived with him for four years – I know what the end game was. And lucky for you, I was there when he bumped into the guy.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 14, 2008

Somewhere along the way, getting dinner after Garrett’s Monday therapy sessions had turned into a routine. Rosie didn’t mind it – between the two of them, they could save enough that it wasn’t a hardship, and Garrett needed to blow off steam afterward. That was happening more and more, lately, especially if Garrett went in wanting to talk about something other than his issues with transitioning; she was on the point of suggesting Garrett start looking for a new therapist.

“I mean, he won’t accept that I’m just – conflicted,” Garrett said, around a mouthful of steak sandwich. “I know what I want in the end, and I can think of no better use for my dear grandmother’s money than to get it. But do I really want to go through all that for something that won’t even work right out the other end?”

“There probably won’t be a good synthetic dick in our lifetime,” Rosie pointed out. “Not one that isn’t detachable, anyway.”

Garrett snorted. “Yeah, no thank you. This isn’t a decision I can just make overnight, though. I thought that was the whole point of putting people through years of therapy before even letting them near the hormones. This would be so much easier if I could just swap parts with someone and call it a day.”

“Wouldn’t it just. But that’s probably even more out of reach than the prosthetic option.”

“Don’t remind me. Hey, can you grab me another Coke?”

“This is a Pepsi restaurant,” Rosie said, smiling at Garrett’s scowl even as she grabbed his cup; no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t leave Alabama behind completely. “And you were having Mountain Dew anyway.”

“You know what I mean, Barton.”

She did, and she headed across the restaurant to get the refill, only to find Garrett in conversation with someone she’d never seen before when she came back – a real beanpole of a guy in his sixties, at least.

“I quite understand,” the guy said (and what a British accent he had); he pulled a business card out of his pocket and handed it to Garrett. “In the event you change your mind, however, I’ll be in town for a few weeks yet. That said, your opportunity leaves with spring.”

Rosie eyed the guy as he walked off. “What was that all about?”

“He said he has... means. To get done what I want done, how I want it done.”

“It was going to be pretty pricey,” Rosie says. “No worse than if he actually went in for surgery, though. So he waffled on it for about a month, and then he figured he’d go ahead with it. As far as I know, he had all of two days to take advantage of it – he missed our Monday dinner.”

Lilly nods. “We’re going to need the therapist’s name. And anything else you can remember about this British guy.”

“The therapist’s Nicholas Foster. Good luck trying to get any patient details out of him, though. As for the British guy, I have good news and bad news.” She fishes her wallet out of her purse, and a business card out of the wallet. “Garrett left this on his computer desk. I kept it, tried to track the guy down myself, but I didn’t get anywhere. I’m not even sure if that’s the guy’s actual name – if it is, he’s seriously off the grid. Like, I didn’t think people could be this off the grid anymore.”

Before either of them can respond to that, Scotty’s phone rings; as he steps out of the office to answer it, Lilly says, “This may be a difficult question, but have you considered the chance that Garrett just doesn’t want to be found?”

Rosie sighs. “I did, but... I think that’s only the case if he started drinking again. I let him move in with me on the condition that he sober up. But even if he did start again, I don’t see why he’d be avoiding his family so hard. He only just got one he could stomach.”

“Did he go to any alcoholism support groups?”

“Yeah, once we found him one that wasn’t tied to a church.” Rosie grabs a post-it pad and scribbles down an address. “I still refer people there when I need to – they’re good people. If Foster won’t help you, they might be able to.”

“We’ll see what we can find. Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome. If there’s anything else you need, feel free to come back.”

Lilly sticks the post-it to the business card and puts them both in her pocket with a sigh. If anything, she has more questions now than she did before, but only one of them has an easy answer. “Who was on the phone?”

“Kat. She thinks they hit pay dirt with one of the Doe boxes.”

***

“Is it me,” Kat says, when Lilly and Scotty come back to the office, “or is this the weirdest case ever?”

Lilly shrugs. “We’ve had creepier cases, but this one’s definitely up there for the strange factor. What’d you find?”

“John Doe, found mid-February 2008. Looks like our buddy Garrett got what he was looking for, too – the autopsy report doesn’t show any signs of surgery.” Kat holds up the file photo; it’s a close match to the photo Melissa brought in – but not exact.

Still, it’s close enough that they can’t dismiss it.

Scotty eyes the photo with a frown. “Don’t suppose anyone held onto any DNA? We’re probably going to need to run something to make sure.”

“I don’t know, but we might be able to pull something off his clothes, if it comes to that.”

“How did he die?”

“Blunt force trauma,” Kat says. “Took a nasty hit to the back of the head. I can’t figure out why it stalled out in the first place, unless it was because none of his friends were expecting the physical differences.”

Lilly opens her mouth to comment – from what Rosie said, there’s no reason the investigation should have gone cold on that account – but stops as something in the case box catches her eye. There’s an evidence bag tucked under Garrett’s clothes; when she pulls it loose, it turns out to have a worn leather bracelet in it.

“What’s this?”

Kat shrugs. “Going by the evidence photos, it was on the body. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.”

“Mine is, maybe, but I think I know who might be able to guess.”

***

“I’m sorry,” Melissa says, handing the bag back to Lilly. “Never seen that before in my life. Garrett wasn’t exactly big on jewelry.”

“I can imagine.” Lilly sets the bag on her desk, trading it for one of the less gruesome photos. “I know this may not... be ideal circumstances for a visual ID, and we’ll need a DNA sample to make sure, but does this look like him?”

When Lilly holds up the photo, Melissa goes pale. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s – I don’t know if a sample from me would help you much, we were only half-siblings, but if you think it will? You got it.”

“You’ll have more in common with him than I would.”

Once they’ve got the sample and Melissa leaves the office, Lilly sighs. “I don’t know about you, Scotty, but I need lunch.”

“Sounds good to me.”

But just because they leave the office doesn’t mean either of them can put the case down; this one was a complex mess to begin with, and every new twist only seems to make it worse. The only thing they do know is why Garrett dropped off the face of the earth – even though they’ll need the DNA to back it up, Lilly’s pretty sure they’ve found their man, from the way Melissa reacted.

“So the guy’s dead,” Scotty says, “and he has this bracelet even though Melissa says he wasn’t the jewelry type. I’m not sure we’re gonna get answers out of the therapist or the support group that easily. And there’s still this mystery British guy we have to account for. Kat may not know why this case went cold in the first place, but it might die twice, at this rate.”

“Well, I’m not giving up until the leads run dry. We got two more to run down, whenever you’re done.”

“In a minute. Let me get a refill.”

Lilly nods, and only lets herself sigh when Scotty’s gone. He’s right; this case is a tough nut to crack.

“Excuse me.”

Lilly looks up, mostly because of the British accent; there’s a woman with dark hair and an expression like she’s privately amused by everything around her standing by the table.

“Can I help you?”

“I couldn’t help overhearing your quandary,” the woman says. “I believe I might be able to shed some light on parts of it.”

“What parts would those be?”

“The bracelet, and your victim’s mysterious benefactor.”

Lilly sits up; she’s not sure she should trust anything this coincidental, but she still wants to hear the woman out. “You think they’re connected?”

“I have reason to believe they are, and since you won’t be able to question him about it, connecting the pieces is the least I can do.”

Fortunately, before the woman can get into the story, Scotty comes back with his refill. “Who’s this, Lil?”

“Helena,” the woman says, offering Scotty a handshake (and one to Lilly, after he’s returned it).

“She was just about to unravel the mystery of the bracelet for me.”

“Oh?” Scotty pulls over a chair for Helena, then sits back down himself. “Go for it, if you think you can.”

“Very well.” Helena folds her hands on the table in front of her. “I used to work for an organization that deals in... gathering curiosities, you might say. Your victim having something uncharacteristic in their possession fits the pattern we looked for.”

“Curiosities. You mean like something that’d give a guy a sex change?”

Helena smiles. “Ah, so that’s where that got to. Yes, precisely like that.”

“That explains why he had it,” Lilly says. “You said you know who the British guy is?”

“I dare say I do, but you’ll have a difficult time interviewing him. James MacPherson is dead.”

Lilly sighs; of course it wouldn’t be that easy. “And what makes you so sure it was him?”

“We worked for the same organization,” Helena says. “Not concurrently, you understand, but he was in the same line of work, a bit after I was. After some time, he turned from gathering the curiosities at hand to selling them.”

“Bingo,” Scotty says. “Rosie said Garrett was considering buying something. And it sounds like you’ve come across the bracelet before.”

“I’ve been... looking for it for a very long time, you might say. It’s from Albania, originally; they have a custom of allowing young ladies to choose to remain virgins and live as men within the community.”

“I guess some of them took it farther than others,” Lilly says. She still can’t see the shape of how it works, but Helena’s theory makes more sense than anything else they’ve got so far. “Would something like that have killed him?”

“Perhaps, but I don’t think it likely in this case. It never seemed the sort of thing that would exact its price in that form – you can’t make that kind of change with no consequences at all, but not everything is that... extreme.”

“I see,” Scotty says, with a frown that says he doesn’t at all. “Would this MacPherson guy have come after him again?”

Helena considers that for what Lilly thinks is an uncomfortably long time. “I rather doubt it,” she finally says. “If your young man bought the bracelet, I can only assume he had enough money to settle accounts before leaving the transaction. James was hardly above homicide, but I don’t think he would have found it necessary.”

“Charming.”

“Thank you for your help,” Lilly says, fishing one of her cards out of a pocket. “If you think of anything else, let us know.”

“I shall,” Helena says. “Though while you’re here, I do have one request.” She pulls a post-it pad out of her pocket and writes what resolves into an address on the top one before peeling it off and handing it to Lilly in exchange for the card. “When you’ve got this sorted, could you send the bracelet on in the post? It may help my former employers to reconsider their current opinion of me.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

***

It’s a lot to digest, but Lilly has to admit it explains a lot. Helena’s explanation hinted at a much bigger world of this kind of thing than what she and Scotty have brushed up against; if she could just figure out why the Treasury Department is running the show, she could let it rest.

In any case, they have a much more mundane interview to be getting on with. Waiting on the edges of a substance abuse support group is refreshingly normal, even if they have to wait in the hall since the meeting itself is confidential.

After the meeting trickles out, a middle-aged woman approaches them. “Detectives? I’m Alicia Weisberger. The director said you were here about one of my old charges.”

Lilly nods. “We’re looking into Garrett Weaver’s disappearance. Did you know him very well?”

“As well as Garrett let anyone know him, but I was his sponsor from the time his roommate sent him to us – before he started transitioning. Poor kid had a lot of demons he was dealing with. Do you know what happened to him yet?”

“We think he was murdered,” Scotty says, and Alicia goes pale; it’s a long few moments before she collects herself enough to say anything.

“Oh, no. He was finally getting everything on track. I’d hoped it was just that he decided a fresh start somewhere else was in order.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

Alicia lets out a heavy sigh. “Weekend before Valentine’s Day. We have a lunch meeting on Saturdays, and he came to that one.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 9, 2008

Garrett had been fidgeting the entire meeting, in a way that Alicia hadn’t seen him do since he was first adjusting to a lack of constant alcohol in his bloodstream. He didn’t say anything about it, either, which in her experience was usually a red flag – if he hadn’t offered encouragement to the people who did speak up, she would have been more concerned.

As it was, she pulled him aside at the end of the meeting, just to make sure. “Garrett? I hate to have to do this, but – are you all right?”

“I’m fine, I promise. I know you’ve been extra freaked about me since August--”

“With good reason, when you called me from Alabama and said you had a bottle of Jack in hand and were ready to drink it all if I didn’t talk you off the proverbial ledge.”

Garrett sighed. “Which you did, and I haven’t so much as looked at a bottle of booze since. I am fine, Alicia. I’m not relapsing.”

“Then why were you fidgeting so much?”

“Nerves. I’m... getting something before dinner that’s going to help me get to where I want to be. Next time you see me, I’ll be a changed man.”

Alicia raised an eyebrow. “What, surgery?”

“Better.” Garrett grinned. “I don’t know if I can explain it, but trust me, I’m not gonna blow a chance like this.”

“I don’t know what he had in mind, or if he even got there,” Alicia finishes. “But he was pretty excited about it.”

“We have a lead on that front,” Scotty says. “What happened in August that got you so worried about his drinking?”

“Garrett... found out his grandparents had been lying to him his whole life. He took it pretty hard, but he was starting to bounce back from it. If you can get him to talk about it, I think his therapist might know a little more about the details.”

“Good thing we’re headed over there next, then.”

***

Unfortunately, getting information out of Dr. Foster is every bit as much like pulling teeth as Lilly had been worried about.

“I’m sorry,” he says, folding his hands on his desk and looking at her and Scotty like they’re wasting his time. “I don’t divulge private information about my patients.”

“I’m glad you believe in their privacy,” Lilly says, “but we’re here on a homicide investigation. You might want to reconsider your stance.”

“You think the victim was one of my patients?”

“Sure of it, actually.” Scotty hands Dr. Foster the photo Melissa gave them. “Garrett Weaver.”

Dr. Foster studies the photo for a long few moments before handing it back. “Ah. Is that what happened? I’d wondered. Quite a shame, that.”

“We know he was looking into transitioning,” Lilly says. “Do you think that could have been involved somehow?”

“Couldn’t say. Many of my patients are transitioning, or hoping to, and most of them don’t have very good support networks. Garrett was lucky enough to have a good friend close at hand.”

Scotty nods. “And what about his family issues? We heard there was some drama with his grandparents – he ever talk about that?”

Dr. Foster’s quiet for a few moments; then he sighs. “Once. It was... a kettle of fish I wasn’t expecting.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
August 27, 2007

Garrett had canceled last week on account of a family emergency; it turned out that was a funeral that Garrett was keen on discussing. Nicholas wasn’t sure what it had to do with the rest of Garrett’s issues, but it was his job to listen, so he did.

But finally, there came a point where his professional judgment couldn’t hold back his questions. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. I thought you were going to your mother’s funeral?”

“So did I.” Garrett sighed, more interested in looking at the green carpet than looking Nicholas in the eye. “But no, turns out she’s been dead for years and my grandparents, in their infinite wisdom, told me she was my sister. All because they thought her falling for a guy they didn’t pick was ‘a stain on the Lyon family name,’ which I’ll be scrapping as soon as I can get to the fucking courthouse.”

“I see.” He didn’t, really, but he wanted to give Garrett a chance to elaborate before saying as much; instead, he made a few notes on Garrett’s file.

“I just – I have this family that I didn’t even know existed until last week, and they’re pretty cool. With the whole package. And I don’t understand why they thought they needed to keep this from me.”

“So it doesn’t have any bearing on you wanting to transition?”

Garrett looked at Nicholas like he’d grown a second head. “Even if they did care, it wouldn’t. One way or another, I’m finishing what the double mastectomy started. I don’t want to talk about my damn dysphoria today, I want to talk about the fact that I was this close to getting drunk off my ass again. Can you at least humor me?”

“Sounds like it was a tense dynamic,” Scotty says, when Dr. Foster finishes the story.

“You could call it that, certainly. Garrett was a bit of a firecracker. Very determined to have things a certain way; I’d say the tendency ran in the family, but each generation used it differently.”

Lilly sighs. “I know that feeling. Did things improve before he disappeared?”

After a few moments, Dr. Foster shrugs. “If you could call it that. Garrett had started skipping sessions, which is usually an indicator that someone wants to switch therapists, though I did consider that Garrett may have been self-medicating again and dodging the topic.”

“If he was fighting the addiction as hard as everything else we’ve heard suggests, I’m not sure he would have relapsed that easily.” Lilly knows it’s possible – God only knows how many times her mother promised she’d get better, no, really, she meant it this time – but Garrett’s roommate and sponsor hadn’t sounded like they thought it was likely. “Why float that theory?”

“Garrett’s roommate, from what I could tell when we did talk, was getting less supportive as Garrett’s plans developed.”

“Rosie?” Scotty frowns. “Why would she be upset about him transitioning?”

Dr. Foster raises an eyebrow at them, then shakes his head, with a smirk that Lilly briefly thinks would rival Helena’s. “Of course that little tidbit didn’t come up. Rosie’s birth name was Roger.”

***

They agree they need to go and talk to Rosie again, after that little bombshell – but it’s getting on time for dinner, so they decide to leave it until the morning. Lilly ends up awake half the night, contemplating Garrett’s photo and wondering just what the poor guy stumbled into, and if his roommate’s going to be the break the case needs.

The next morning, once she’s got some coffee in her system, they head back to the counseling center. Scotty closes Rosie’s office door behind them and says, “We got a couple follow-up questions for you.”

“Anything I can do to help,” Rosie says. “What do you need to know?”

“Why you didn’t bother mentioning you were in the same boat as Garrett, for a start,” Lilly says.

Rosie purses her lips and sighs. “The opposite boat, actually. I didn’t think it was relevant.”

“Not relevant?” Scotty says, raising an eyebrow. “Your roommate ends up dead and you think it’s not relevant that he got what you wanted?”

Lilly pulls the photo from the Doe box out of the file she brought along and passes it to Rosie. “Maybe you were jealous. Garrett’s problems were solved, but you were stuck right where you always had been. He wouldn’t help you, so you took matters into your own hands.”

Rosie stares at the photo for a while, white as a sheet; when she finally looks up, there are tears in her eyes.

“Do you two have any idea what it’s like to go through every day uncomfortable in your own skin?” she says. “You can’t win. You spend forever putting on a – a performance that people expect you to pull off because of your genetic makeup. People mock you when you don’t get it right, never mind that it’s a completely arbitrary standard anyway. You decide, screw it, I’m going to live how I’m comfortable, and everyone you thought had your back deserts you. And then just when you think you’ve pulled it off, someone rubs it in your face that you haven’t. Of course I was jealous. Most trans people would be, if they knew this kind of thing was possible. But it wasn’t that Garrett wouldn’t help me – it was that he couldn’t.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 9, 2008

The differences between Garrett this morning and Garrett tonight were subtle, for the most part, if Rosie ignored the shit-eating grin on his face. She’d never seen him this happy.

“It feels... weird,” he said, playing with a leather bracelet he hadn’t had this morning; Rosie assumed that was the means to the end, somehow. “I don’t know my own strength and my center of gravity’s all out of whack and I’m trying not to double-take every time I open my damn mouth. But it’s great.”

“I’m sure it is.” Rosie had never found testosterone to be that much of a blessing; it got in her way more often than not. But Garrett was happy, no denying that. He didn’t need to hear her rant about it yet again.

“I’m done. I made it. I mean, I had the worst cramps of my fucking life at first, and he said there’s a chance I’m sterile now, but it’s not like I wanted to inflict my screwed-up psyche on some poor unsuspecting kid anyway. I can live with that.”

Rosie sighed. “I bet. And I guess I just have to live with what I can until I can swing hormone injections, huh?”

It was out of her mouth before she realized it, and far more bitter-sounding than she ever would have intended if she’d stopped to think about it, but the damage was done. Garrett stared at her for a few moments, then slammed his hands on the kitchen table and stood up.

“God dammit, Rosie, I thought y’all knew me better’n that!”

Rosie was suddenly glad she wasn’t standing. She’d heard Garrett lapse into his native accent before; it only happened when he was drunk, back before he kicked the habit, or pissed off. But it sounded a lot more threatening nearly two octaves lower than she was used to hearing it.

Fortunately, Garrett caught himself there; he took a deep breath and ran his hands through his hair. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I – that cut deep, you know?”

“I know. I’m sorry, Garrett, I didn’t mean to go there.”

“I forgive you. If it’d been you scoring the full transition and me stuck with my fucking uterus, I’d be saying the same thing. But – I asked him if he had anything that’d help you, and he said no. And this—” he held up the arm with the bracelet – “is a one-way trip. Won’t do me any good to give it to you, you already have what it gives.”

“And the last thing I need is a second dick,” Rosie said, and Garrett laughed.

“Exactly. Hey, look on the bright side. Now I can ditch Foster and look for a therapist who’ll help me sort through all the other crap that’s wrong with my life. After Monday we can have dinner at an actual dinner time instead of almost too late to eat anywhere decent.”

Rosie grinned, got up, and pulled Garrett into a hug; for once, he didn’t pull away.

As Rosie finishes her story, Lilly’s phone rings; she leaves Scotty to finish the interview and steps into the hall to take the call.

“Lilly, it’s Kat. Been going through the Doe box for your case, and I found a couple things.”

“Oh?”

“First off, there’s not much blood in the crime scene photos,” Kat says. “With a gash on his head that big, he might’ve bled out before any kind of brain injury caught up with him.”

“Sounds like he was moved, in that case. Anything else?”

“There were some fibers pulled off the body. I sent ‘em down to the lab – they haven’t had time to get ‘em under the microscope yet, but said they might be carpet fibers. Green.”

Lilly frowns. “Green carpet... thanks, Kat. Let me know if anything else turns up.”

“You got it.”

As Lilly hangs up, Scotty emerges from the office. “Who was that?”

“Kat. You happen to remember what color the carpet in Dr. Foster’s office was?”

Scotty has to think about it, but eventually, he says, “Blue. Why?”

Lilly smiles. “I think we need to ask him a few more questions about that.”

***

As tempting as it is to get Dr. Foster in the box, Lilly figures it’ll be easier to get him to open up if they’re on his turf. After a quick coffee stop – at Scotty’s insistence, but Lilly doesn’t protest, just in case this runs past lunch – they head over.

“Detectives,” Dr. Foster says, when they get past his receptionist. “What can I do for you today?”

“You can tell us the truth,” Lilly says. “For a start, this is a lovely carpet you have.”

“...Thank you. I do try to keep the office looking nice.”

“Except you mentioned yesterday that the carpet was green at the time of Garrett’s last appointment. When did you last have it changed? Two years ago?”

“I fail to see what this has to do with anything. Didn’t you go talk to Rosie, like I suggested?”

Scotty nods. “We did. And she did have a useful tidbit for us. She and Garrett met up for dinner Mondays, after his sessions with you. First time he didn’t show in years was the day he disappeared.”

“I bet he came here,” Lilly says. “Rosie also said he was planning for that day’s appointment to be his last. And you don’t strike me as the kind of person who takes it well when someone tells you they don’t need you anymore.”

“Finding a new therapist is a natural progression of the trade,” Dr. Foster says, but the set of his jaw tells Lilly they’re getting to him.

“Maybe, but things had been tense for a while, at that point. Garrett’s problems were getting beyond your scope, and suddenly he found what he wanted without your help—”

“Garrett didn’t know what she wanted.” Dr. Foster’s practically snarling, and it’s the first time someone’s used Garrett’s birth pronoun in this whole investigation (even Nick got the message after Melissa glared at him).

Scotty raises an eyebrow. “And how’s that?”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 11, 2008

There was a knock at the office door. Nicholas glanced at his watch; 5:30. Time for Garrett’s session, and therefore time for him to put his other notes away. “Come in, Garrett.”

Garrett did so, and closed the door, but didn’t move to the couch as per usual.

“Aren’t you going to sit down?”

“No. I’m done with you. Only came in because I didn’t want to deal with the phone.”

Nicholas frowned. Something was off about Garrett – voice deeper, shoulders set more firmly, posture better than usual. “I haven’t signed off on anything for you yet,” he said. “Surely you don’t want to go through establishing all of that with someone else.”

Garrett smiled, though it wasn’t particularly friendly. “Don’t need you to. I found my own way to what I needed, and I have had it up to here with your fucking transphobic bullshit and your dodging my questions and your insisting that the only way is through you. Not to mention the fact that you only ever want to talk about what you want to talk about. How did someone so goddamn narcissistic get a license to practice, anyway?”

“Your accent is slipping, Garrett.”

“There, see? You’re doing it again. Would it kill you to answer a direct question once in your life?” Garrett sighed. “You know what, actually, never mind. If you were going to answer a direct question, I don’t want it to be that one. Point is, you’re a shit therapist and I’m through with you.”

The rage took Nicholas before he was fully aware of it. Usually, he was better able to channel it into something else, but by the time he realized what was happening, he had already grabbed a bookend and dealt Garrett a solid blow to the head, her blood soaking into the green carpet.

He’d been wanting to have that changed anyway.

***

They got him.

Lilly’s met some arrogant bastards in her time, and Dr. Foster’s up there; he keeps talking about his rage problems, almost like he’s on autopilot, while they cuff him and all the way out to the car. It’s almost like he’s hoping it’ll convince them he wasn’t sane at the time.

It’s not her job to make that judgment, though – just to take him in for processing.

When they get back to the office, Scotty takes Dr. Foster in, and Lilly finds Kat; she’s already started packing up the Doe box and written Garrett’s name on it. Lilly takes it down to the file room, sets it on a shelf, remembers the post-it in her pocket, and pulls it off again.

The bracelet had little enough to do with the case that she thinks it’ll be safe to do that favor for Helena now.

***

Melissa’s been crying since lunch, which she barely touched. The worst was when she called Dad to let him know that they knew what happened to Garrett, now, and it wasn’t pretty. She almost wishes she hadn’t opened this can of worms.

But at the same time, at least they know.

Detective Rush gave her Rosie’s number, and she called, and Rosie was more than happy to meet her for dinner. It’s the first time they’ve met in person, but they end up talking for hours; she’s got a treasure trove of stories about Garrett that Melissa’s never heard before. She understands why he didn’t mention some of them – apparently he was kind of an asshole when he was first trying to sober up – but she’s glad to know them now all the same.

After a while, she gets up to grab a refill – and she could swear she sees Garrett leaning against the wall by the soda machine, grinning like a fiend. She tears up again (and here she’d thought she was all cried out) and gets her refill.

When she comes back, Rosie’s staring at the same empty spot by the soda machine, blinking back tears of her own.

***

Alicia brings up Garrett’s death at the next group meeting. There aren’t a whole lot of people who talked to him, but she thinks they deserve at least that little bit of closure.

There’s a new kid – one of Rosie’s referrals – who dodges all attempts at having a pronoun applied to them and insists they don’t have a problem. Alicia leaves that battle to the rest of the group, since it always comes better from someone who’s been down that road, but she catches the kid afterward and gives them a list of therapists who might be able to help, if they want to go that route.

The kid smiles a little and thanks her before taking off. Whatever happens, she just hopes they find a better ending than Garrett did.

***

Other than her run-in with the detectives, Helena’s visit to Philadelphia proves to be a total loss. James must have had an Artifact stash of some kind here, if he were here long enough to sell a few of the bloody things, but she can find no trace of it. She’s not sure if that means the Warehouse’s current crew has already found it, or if he moved it elsewhere, or if she’s simply not looking in the right place.

But at the very least, she’s sure the detective will pass on the one Artifact she did find.

She’s not sure what her next step is from here. The other plans she’s been juggling are proceeding apace, but what she can do by herself is extremely limited. She’s going to need the Warehouse’s weight at her back if she has any hope of making it to Egypt, and even then, she’s constantly weighing whether the world is truly deserving of what she has in mind. She suspects she will be until the moment she has to make her move. In a very real sense, her fate is in Agent Bering’s hands.

Helena turns to the map James gave her when he brought her out of the bronzer. London has too many memories, and Paris is far too personal, even after all this time, but other than that she considers the world to be her oyster.

New York will do for now, she thinks, and she can play it by ear from there.

***

“Mail call!” Claudia calls into the office. “Myka, you got a package – you been waiting for something?”

Myka sticks her head out of the library; she’d been trying to chase down a lead on something for Artie and Pete, but she can’t make heads or tails of how Artie’s got the damn thing organized, and Leena’s busy with lunch. “No. Where’s it from?”

Claudia eyes the package for a moment. “Philly. Weird, you’d think that’d be more Artie’s mail call than yours.” She hands the small bubble mailer over, and sure enough, it’s specifically marked ‘Attn: Myka Bering.’

“That is strange. Anything else?”

“Handful of bills, smaller handful of magazines. That was the only thing for you.”

Myka nods, already pulling at the tab on the bubble mailer. “Thanks, Claud.”

Claudia tosses off a lazy salute and takes off, probably headed to the Warehouse floor, and Myka finishes opening the package; inside is a short note on police department letterhead and an evidence bag.

A woman named Helena asked me to send this to you after we closed the case it was part of. She said you would know what to do with it.

Det. Lilly Rush

Myka frowns and grabs a pair of gloves off Artie’s desk before opening the evidence bag; inside is a worn leather bracelet. She’s not sure what game HG is playing at, or why she’d feel the need to drag the police into it, but she grabs a static bag and re-bags the bracelet anyway, ducking away from the sparks.

She’ll ask Leena or Claudia what it is later.