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Mnemonic Breadcrumbs

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’Eddie. Eddie. Eddie.’ It’s been Olivia’s mantra since the meeting with Broyles.The name punctuates each step she takes, each click of her car's turn signal while she waits for the light to change. ’Eddie. Eddie. Eddie. Ella and Eddie.’

She pulls one of her few photo albums from the bookshelf and perches on the arm of the sofa while she flips through the pages, back to front. Walter’d told her that memories are preserved by creating associations – My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles – The names of the planets plus one recently demoted, for example.

The photo of herself with Ella and a little dark-haired boy crowded together in Rachel’s overstuffed easy chair is labeled ‘December 2009’. It’s a candid; they’ve all got their heads bent over a book, Ella pointing at the words, while the boy, who could be all of two, is watching her with three of his fingers stuffed in his mouth and a string of drool running down his chin and on to the arm she's holding around his waist. Drool, and the Ella’s button nose aside, Olivia thinks he looks like her father.

She remembers the trip, the last one she took out to Chicago before things at the Division had gotten busy and her hours too irregular. She remembers Ella having somehow slipped Rachel’s grip at the airport and getting lost in the crowd. Olivia’d flashed her badge and used all the powers not actually legally appointed to her to lock down the terminal until they’d found Ella chatting up a grey-haired lady and her ancient black dachshund beside the baggage carousel. She remembers Ella crawling into her bed well before sunrise each morning, falling back asleep with her niece tucked under her chin, smelling the sweet scent of little kid sweat and watermelon shampoo. She remembers everything about that trip, so how could she forget him?

Memories might be preserved by association, doesn’t the link have to first be created? Olivia's pretty sure what Rachel would say if she just hopped a flight for Chicago and showed up on her doorstep at midnight with a "Hey, it's been a while. Mind if I go look at your kid?"

There's got to be another way.

Olivia slips the photo out of the plastic sleeve and picks up her phone. She loads the camera app and angles the photo so Eddie fills the frame and snaps a picture, then opens up her phone book. She pauses, thumb hovering over her sister’s name. Rachel hardly ever calls this number, not unless it’s an emergency.

In the kitchen, Peter’s making all sorts of cooking noises while he chats with Lincoln about the porcupine man case on his own phone. She’s grown up enough to admit that she feels more than a bit of jealousy toward them both for being caught up in the investigation while she’s stuck on the sidelines pending character references and review.

Olivia chews on her bottom lip and tells herself that she’s not being presumptuous as she scrolls through until she finds the entry for Peter’s number and attaches the new picture to his name.

Peter calls her the next day from the lab. When she checks the calls display before answering, she’s surprised for a second by a half-familiar picture of a dark-haired little boy. The phantom sensation of cold drool on her neck kicks something over in her head. ’Ella and…’ her mind stutters, ’… and Eddie’.