Episode Seven: The Disappearing Bullet Affair
Nikolai walked around the burned-out facility with Grier. E.V.E. agents scattered themselves across the landscape. Nikolai suspected that they spent their time staring at the grass and discussing shapes in the clouds. Nikolai scowled, and Grier said, “There’s the demolitions expert.” She pointed with a polished fingernail. “Let’s hope he actually knows something.”
“While you talk to him, I will interrogate the coroner. Perhaps it will get us home more quickly.”
“You sure you want to split up, Kuryakin?”
“I am certain you can handle yourself.”
The sun flickered against her sunglasses as she tilted her head to grin. “That I can.”
Nikolai walked away to enter the building. The sun glared through the gaping holes, and he headed into the basement where he saw the morgue a night earlier. He thought of his bullet sitting in the body, waiting for someone to pull it out and incriminate him. He clenched and unclenched his fist as he walked, keeping his head staring straight ahead.
Nikolai pushed open the door to the morgue, finding a short, thin man staring at a file folder in front of a desk. Before the man noticed him, Nikolai’s eyes spotted the keys on the desk. Nikolai cleared his throat to get the man’s attention, and the man’s small green eyes narrowed in on Nikolai. Nikolai waited, but the man did not initiate any conversation. “I am Agent Kuryakin from A.B.E.L.”
“Oh yes, I heard your team was prying through our investigation.”
Nikolai took off his sunglasses and folded them into the front pocket of his suit jacket to give the man a harder stare. “Do you possess anything I should investigate?”
The man nodded. “Follow me, Mr. Kuryakin.”
So Nikolai followed the man down a corridor as they entered a back room. He spotted a body still out on a table. He recognized the body despite its nude and deconstructed state. The man explained, “I suspect this is our only casualty before the explosions and fire started. The shot was precise, but if this was a professional job, and most of us suspect it was, then it’s not surprising that the shot was professional as well.”
“Have you analyzed the bullet yet?”
“I just pulled it out now.”
“May I see it?”
The coroner narrowed his eyes. “None of our specialists have seen it yet.”
“Considering your people are more likely to use roses to shoot, perhaps I should analyze it.”
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’?”
“I do not believe that phrase to be accurate,” Nikolai replied, “and I still would appreciate examining the bullet. At A.B.E.L. we have a thorough database of all the assassins throughout the world. And I assure you I have a particularly noteworthy eidetic memory.”
The coroner sighed, but nodded towards a tray. Nikolai pulled a pair of medical gloves out a dispenser on the table and slid them on as he approached. A bullet in a shallow pool of blood sat in the tray. Nikolai lifted it out, a string of blood following it. Nikolai disconnected the string with his finger and then examined the bullet closely. He remembered the bullet. He remembered it fondly.
“How strong is your knowledge of ammunition?” Nikolai asked, holding up the bullet between his two fingers for the coroner to see.
The corner squinted at it. “Usually one of our other specialists examines them. That looks like a 9mm, though I only know that because it’s so common.”
Nikolai smiled. “Then I suppose you do not need me to expand on that.”
He watched the coroner’s green eyes observe the bullet as Nikolai tossed it into the air and catch it back into his palm. The coroner cringed and replied, “Please don’t do that.”
Nikolai tossed it back into the tray, listening to the light clinking noise as it hit the side of the tray. “I am under the impression that E.V.E. handles everything in a manner similar to that.”
“Perhaps you have the wrong impression about our organization.”
“Perhaps,” Nikolai replied with a thin smile. He peeled off his gloves and tossed them into the appropriate waste receptacle. “If your specialists need any help with the bullet, please inform them that I will be available to assist them.”
The coroner scoffed. “I’ll be sure to let them know.”
Nikolai didn’t trip on the coroner’s tone as he left the morgue. He walked through the office, sliding the coroner’s keys into his palm all in one motion, keeping the keys from making a noise.
Nikolai spent the rest of the day going through the rest of the incident with Grier. In moments of privacy, she mentioned several times to Nikolai that it looked like the work of Guy Solo. Nikolai watched her piercing brown eyes running along his face to gage his reaction. But Nikolai stayed expressionless, hoping that Jackie wouldn’t suspect him as the second person.
E.V.E. realized that everything pointed to Guy Solo except for the second person. The building itself collapsed, only leaving the lower floors like the morgue mildly intact, but E.V.E. calculated few casualties. Solo usually focussed more on the destruction than the death. But Solo always worked alone, and a second man undermined that analysis. “Unless it is someone trying to look like Mr. Solo,” Nikolai replied. “Perhaps it was merely a threat by someone who did not want to be recognized, but wanted to do a lot of damage.”
“But the record says they brought Solo into their prison cells.”
Nikolai rubbed his chin. An E.V.E. agent said, “But none of the survivors specifically saw Solo, and while the explosions knocked out our surveillance equipment, we know that particular cell’s surveillance was disabled. “It’s possible our guards were bribed to record down a different name. We are not an infallible agency,” The E.V.E. agent grinned while he added, “just like A.B.E.L, as you two know.”
Nikolai and Jackie dined together at the hotel, mainly complaining to each other about how terrible E.V.E. is. Nikolai felt increasingly relaxed around Jackie, and he appreciated the way her long nails twisted into his hair and kneaded at his shoulders. The hotel was the same one he and Guy stayed at, but he felt no longing for Guy as he sprawled with Jackie out on the comforter. They watched TV together when Nikolai stood up to say, “I am going to walk.” He stretched. “Do you mind waiting in the hotel room in case Cox calls?”
“Sure,” Jackie replied. “I’ll just open a window and hope I don’t suffocate in here.”
“Thanks,” Nikolai replied, chuckling.
Nikolai placed his hands in his pockets as he walked out of the hotel and back to E.V.E.’s agency. He recognized his path to the building, and from a distance the destructed building still illuminated through the thick night. But Nikolai blended in with the other agents and walked through the building unnoticed. He found the door to the coroner’s office locked.
Smiling to himself, he unlocked the door, walked through the corridor and into the morgue. He found the bullet in a plastic, labelled bag. He picked it up and stuffed it into his pocket, and he locked the door behind him on his way out.
When he reached the hotel room, he and Jackie analyzed the notes they took throughout the day. They started writing their report for Cox until both decided it was time catch a few hours of sleep. Nikolai left the plastic bag and bullet in his pants that he packed away into his briefcase. He worried that Grier’s sharp eyes would notice if he tried to move the bullet elsewhere.
The following morning, they tromped back onto E.V.E.’s premises to continue their investigation. Nikolai and Grier quickly melded back into the routine, their tense exteriors hiding the excitement bubbling inside of them. Even if their job was just to bully E.V.E. agents into giving more information, Nikolai thought it felt good to be back working.
As he walked away from one group of agents to move to another, he saw the coroner hurrying over to him. He waited, keeping his face expressionless. He pushed his sunglasses up against his nose, as the coroner lowered his voice to talk to him. “It’s Agent Kuryakin, right?”
Nikolai simply nodded.
“Perhaps you would be willing to walk back with me to my office.”
“I have work to do here,” Nikolai stated.
“Your partner seems to have a good handle on things, please, follow me.”
Nikolai started walking, and the coroner hurried ahead of him. He watched the way the coroner hunched over in embarrassment and how his eyes darted over his shoulder to check on Nikolai. Nikolai couldn’t decide if he suspected Nikolai in the bullet’s disappearance, but Nikolai really felt no concern for the matter. He walked steadily, and he enjoyed the sun on his face.
The coroner opened the door to his office, waving Nikolai in. “Agent Kuryakin, you mentioned you had a photographic memory.”
“You are paraphrasing me.”
The coroner rubbed a hand against his face in frustration. “You saw the bullet yesterday?”
“And you mentioned that you knew more about it?”
“Just tell me some off the top of your head.”
“It was a 9mm Parabellum hollowpoint.” Nikolai watched as the man wrote quickly on a piece of paper. “Based on the wounds of the man, it entered through the back of the skull-“
“That part is my job.”
“What information are you looking for, exactly?”
“Perhaps some technical information.”
“A hollowpoint generally expands to contain it within the body and do mass tissue damage. It is possible the shooter never intended for the bullet to go all the way through, which is sloppy because it leaves evidence behind. However, the 9mm is one of the most popular bullets used, particularly within the police force, so even left behind it will not be easy to pinpoint the shooter. It is used in a lot of different kinds of guns.”
The coroner nodded, his hand scrawling quickly across the page. “Do you know any weapons off hand that use this type of bullet?”
“Well it was originally designed for the Luger.”
The coroner stared at Nikolai blankly.
“Which is Guy Solo’s weapon of choice.”
“But, as I mentioned before, it is a common bullet,” Nikolai said. While he held his tongue about his Jericho’s compatibility with the bullet, he did say, “I know a lot of A.B.E.L. agents use them as well, and I would not be surprised if most of your agents use them also. Perhaps whoever it was got a hold of one of your agent’s guns to do the shooting.”
The coroner jotted that note down.
“May I inquire as to what this is about?”
The coroner sighed. “The bullet’s missing.” He suddenly raised his eyes to look at Nikolai. His green eyes ran along Nikolai, but not in the way Westermark’s or Guy’s eyes did. Nikolai wondered if it was suspicion. The coroner continued, “I thought I misplaced it at first, but maybe one of our agents played a part on it. I would appreciate it if you did not spread this around.”
“Of course,” Nikolai replied.
The coroner chuckled. “Though I suppose you won’t leave it out of your own report.”
“That is confidential,” Nikolai replied, offering the man a thin smile.
The man smiled back, the corners of his eyes crinkling just slightly. Nikolai felt a flutter inside of him, but they fled when the coroner replied, “Thanks for your help, Agent Kuryakin.”
Nikolai stiffened again. He replied, “Please do not hesitate to approach me again if you have further inquiries.”
“I won’t,” the coroner replied.
Nikolai left the office. He spotted a bottleneck on the stairwell and squeezed his way onto it, mixing in with the other agents. He pressed his hand into his pocket, feeling the coroner’s keys there. He casually lifted the keys out of his pocket as he walked, his shoulder brushing against another man’s. He then soundlessly slid the keys into the other man’s pocket. The man made no movement in response, and Nikolai kept his pace with the man as they squeezed their way up the stairwell, mingling in with the other agents.
Then Nikolai broke out into the open, spotting Grier examining the grass with several other E.V.E. agents. She stood up as she saw Nikolai approaching, placing her hands on her hips. “I wondered where you went. Pit stop?”
“One of the other agents wished to speak to me.”
Jackie nodded, and she stepped away from the other agents, placing her hand on Nikolai’s arm. Nikolai smiled at Jackie, and she returned one. She said, “Anything I should know about?”
Nikolai lowered his voice. “E.V.E.’s missing the bullet I examined yesterday. The coroner wonders if it is an inside job.”
Jackie’s eyes widened as she replied, “That’s certainly worth noting.”
“I thought so,” Nikolai replied.
“No,” Nikolai replied. “There’s nothing else.”