This story is by Marie-Claire Rackham-Mann and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Agent John Rathbone was transported back to Iraq and to the last moment he had held his partner Corporal Bosco, as she was dying. She had been shot twice at close range; the second shot found its mark under her left arm, bypassing her Kevlar vest. Rathbone saw what he thought was the shooter melting into the crowded market a short distance away. He called out to him in Arabic “Wakef, Wallana Petucha” Stop or I’ll shoot. The assailant turned, pointed his gun at him and leaned his head to the side and imitated shooting him and he was gone.
Rathbone called for backup, knelt down and dragged Bosco by her webbing into the shade of a burnt out building. Bosco was bleeding out quickly and losing consciousness fast, despite Rathbone’s efforts to keep her conscious. Bosco tried to speak, but all he could make out through the bloody gurgling was
“It’s a tr…. It’s a…..It’s you th….”
She handed him a scrap of paper with some numbers and letters, grabbed his arm and looked deeply into his eyes, a tear escaping as she exhaled her last breath. A fighter to the last. What she had been doing out in the open and whatever she knew, she took it to the grave with her. Coldness descended his body as if he had been immersed in cold water. He shivered and the hairs rose all over his body. He would never forget that look in Bosco’s eyes.
Those blue eyes that saw everything, combined with a sharp mind and an easy personality marked her out as an exceptional soldier and investigator. She had a way with a person that was seldom found in someone of her age. She was honest and dependable, with the experience of a veteran. If Rathbone had to go into battle with someone, he would have chosen her. All four suspects were caught and sent to Fort Levenworth and ended with the death of his partner. The circumstances never did quite sit well with him all these years – Something did not add up.
The cold feeling that had seeped over his body, steadily began to ease off. It would have been welcome in the heat of the Los Angeles summer, he thought with some irony . The investigation was closed down despite indications that someone high up had facilitated the movement of the weapons. He started asking questions and before he knew it, he had been hauled in before his Commander and persuaded to work with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in LA. Eighteen months later his secondment became permanent.
That was fifteen years ago. He’d had his fair share of successful investigations and commendations through the years. He prided himself on being a clean Agent. Unlike so many that he had seen rise quickly to prominence and fall equally as fast. He believed in treating everyone with respect and ensured that the accused’ rights were respected at all times – Innocent until proven guilty was his motto, no short cuts.
This recent investigation into another arms smuggling ring involving decommissioned weapons with possible Department of Defence involvement had collapsed due to missing and uncorroborated evidence linking two DoD employees to the military. As lead Agent the buck stopped with him. Now he faced being forcibly retired because of a botched investigation. It had him feeling continually ill at ease, not because it involved his own, no; but because he found himself uttering the same thing he did when he was investigating the arms ring in Iraq.
“Something does not feel right,” He caught himself uttering into his early morning coffee. Evidently a little too loudly. Agent Joey Di’Ginelli, sitting a short distance from him scouring the original Inspector General Report made by a DoD employee, that started the original investigation, had heard him muttering into his coffee and swung around on his chair
“What’s that big guy?.”
Rathbone did not want to commit himself to anything, it required some quick thinking but he could not shake the feeling that something was off – just like in Iraq. Di’Ginelli’s voice shook him out of the fog of his thoughts. Not wanting to create an uncomfortable long silence that would lead to questions. He replied, “No, nothing Di’Ginelli, this coffee tastes off”.
“What? Replied Di’Ginelli “I just bought a new bag two days ago, are you sure?”
“Perhaps it is just me, too much of a good thing can be bad, right?”
“I can replace it if you think it has turned,” replied Di’Ginelli.
Turned, yes, interesting turn of phrase he thought. “No, that’s ok, I will drop by the coffee shop out on main street later. Let’s get back to work.”
Two hours later after sifting through dozens of witness statements, two names came up that had not in the original investigation, Lt Commander Ives and Petty Officer Adams. Di’Ginelli found them amongst some paperwork in a tatty folder. Rathbone stopped reading a witness statement by the civilian contractor who’d found a stash of weapons out in San Diego. They sounded familiar but he could not remember how he recognised the names. The memory was now retreating into the depths of his mind. He let it go in fear of losing the memory, hoping that it would return in more detail.
“How were these two witnesses overlooked? Ives was their CO and PO Adams signed off on each batch of weapons being destroyed, how the hell were these missed from the deposition?”
This was the evidence he had been waiting for, this conviction was guaranteed. It was obvious however that someone had intentionally been suppressing it.
Now for the real investigation, he thought – finding the person who had been trying to destroy his career. Rathbone smiled to himself, whomever it was had no idea of the wrath they had just called down upon themselves.
“Don’t worry Bosco, I’ll bring them to justice,” he whispered in a vow to his fallen partner. No matter how long it takes.