A Rain of Ashes


gael_icon.gif kayla_icon.gif martin_icon.gif veronica3_icon.gif

Scene Title A Rain of Ashes
Synopsis After the suicide of Nicolas Ahlgren, various Company employees disagree on what to do with his story and the material he left behind.
Date July 4, 2010

Fort Hero: Ahlgren's Office

Today's a holiday, but there's terribly little to celebrate here. Not for Kayla, who finds the label of Independence Day moderately ironic under current circumstances; but, like many things, she keeps that to herself. The perennial hint of disapproval that colors her features works quite well.

Low heels click against concrete as she walks down the subterranean corridor containing forensic technician offices, the sound ceasing abruptly with her stop in front of an unlighted door. Keys jingle in the assistant's hand; one slides into the door's lock, a soft snik sounding as it turns. The light switch just inside is flipped on, illumination flooding a Spartan room. No carpet, nothing but reference books on the shelves; one small potted plant sits on the filing cabinet, and a yellow tennis ball huddles forlornly in the lowest corner. There are no papers on the desk, only monitor, mouse, and keyboard, with the powered-down computer tower underneath.

"Not much to go through," Kayla remarks, stepping aside for the agent behind her to enter.

Normal people might be at a barbecue or the beach today, but Veronica hasn't been a "normal" person for quite some time. Working on the weekend, working on the holiday, is normal for her. She steps in behind Kayla and nods, bending to turn the computer on. "I don't expect there'll be much here, but maybe something to explain why. He was ill and dying, but that doesn't answer why he killed Ritchie. It wasn't an accident, obviously," she murmurs quietly, opening desk drawers to peer in them for anything related to the Ahlgren's illness or off-hour activities.

The agent is weary looking, the perpetual lack of sleep wearing on her, tell-tale dark circles beneath her sleepy-looking eyes. "Did you know him at all?" she asks curiously. "I mean, you know. As much as we 'know' anyone."

There isn't much in most of the desk drawers — printer paper, a stapler, a small clear-plastic box of paperclips, scissors, a collection of pencils and pens in varying states of useability. One drawer is locked, the small sliver of metal holding it closed against casual attempts to examine its contents. The computer hums obediently to life, the monitor crackling briefly as it fires up to display a loading screen.

"I don't deal with forensics, normally," Kayla replies as she steps into the room, hovering in the open space to one side of the door. "We didn't interact much."

"He was very polite. I probably should've thought it strange that he picked up the lab reports for me, but that just seemed in keeping with his personality," Veronica murmurs, looking around for the key to the locked drawer in the other drawers, brows knitting together. She doesn't expect to find much, probably old files, but those might be good to grab while they can anyway.

"Did he have keys on him, or… I can probably just jimmy this," she says, going back to the drawer with the paperclips and fishing one out, then unbending it to make into a make-shift lockpick. This she brings to the locked drawer's flimsy lock — if that fails, it's easy enough to force the drawer open from underneath.

"…can handle this myself, I don' need you t'baby-sit me, Gael." Martin Crowley's voice echoes down the hall past the office, a pair of footsteps clicking over concrete. "Why don' you go see what yer bird is venting about down at the shootin' range, yeah?" Stepping in through the doorway to the office, Crowley looks haggard, tired lines sag beneath his eyes and a stack of folders is clutched under one arm. Looking into the office, there's a furrow of his brows before he steps in a bit slower than his approach's momentum.

"Reid, Sawyer…" Martin offers in hushed quality, "sorry I'm late, 'ad a bit of a hassle on the way in." Standing in the office doorway behind Martin, Gael Cruz's tall frame looms ominously and silent, two fingers pushing up the frames of his glasses as he looks around what was once Ahlgren's personal space here.

"Find anything yet?" is Gael's pragmatic query, stepping once into the office, eyes flicking to Martin briefly before back to Kayla and Veronica. "Anything of note, I guess I should say…"

It's not much of a lock, like most of the kind that are built into desks; it yields to the paperclip fairly readily. Inside is a single file folder, one whose lack of thickness may strike a chord for Veronica — the very folder that sat on his desk with the lab reports he handed her. Beneath that, an envelope with tattered top edge and a smudging of dirt on its corners, as if it has been handled often. The mailing address is Nicolas Ahlgren's apartment; the return address is a place in Salt Lake City, Utah; the sender, a Karen Altemose: Ahlgren's sister.

Kayla turns to glance at Martin and Gael as they join what is now a veritable gathering in the office, but she doesn't do any more than that.

"Agents," Veronica remarks from her crouched position by the desk. "Not yet. We just got here ourselves," she adds to Gael, even as she manages to get the lock to work, a satisfactory click that allows her to pull the drawer open. She leaves the warped paperclip in the lock and lifts the envelope and the folder out, a brow raising as she opens the folder to see its contents with one hand, the other passing the envelope to Kayla to open.

Her brows knit a little and she nods. "This is what I expected to find — the actual hit on the DNA leading to Ahlgren, that he swapped out with Benedict's," she says with a sigh, eyes darting up to see the faces of her two superiors. "I pity the guy for dying and all, but this is the last thing we needed, you know?"

"No, this isn't what we need at all right now, especially not with…" Gael looks over his shoulder, then back into the room, "not with Harper reporting our every misstep back to the Department of Homeland Security. With Secretary Hicks dead, Parkman's now running the show there, and that means a world of complications for us. He's never been friendly to this organization, and the tenuous balance we have…"

As Gael trails off, Martin looks back and forth between the taller administrator and the two agents searching Ahlgren's office. Martin looks to be about ready to say something, but ducks his head down and furrows his brows, hands on his hips as he looks to Gael, who seemed to be waiting for Martin to speak up. When the former IA official fails to, Gael steps in.

"I want these records destroyed," is the last thing to be expected out of the straight-laced senior agent's mouth. "I want any evidence of Ahlgren's misappropriation wiped clean, nothing written on permanent record. We can come up with a cover story for his suicide, whatever it takes. I want to do damage control on this, because we cannot afford another Akado Ichihara while Harper is looking. Ryans, Dalton and Bishop will understand."

Which is to say, Gael hasn't run this past anyone.

"The less they know about what you're doing the better."

Kayla steps forward to take the envelope from Veronica; but before she moves to open it, gray eyes flick to Martin and Gael. "We'll handle it, Cruz," she informs him curtly. Her expression is stiff, gaze unwavering. "Now that that's settled, I think you both have other responsibilities to address?" The temperature of the woman's voice, already cool, drops a few dozen degrees. Or so.

Ryans, Dalton, and Bishop will understand. At least one of the three, Veronica knows, will understand that destroying the file is rather like trying to put out the fires of hell with a water gun. One of the little ones you can buy in a pack of six at the drug store for a dollar at that. Do Cruz and Crowley know that Harper expects the information on the missing files? Veronica's mouth opens but then Kayla is speaking, and the field agent nods, part of her already playing out the possibilities of how to use this for her own means. She knows the Company is falling — destroying Ahlgren's evidence will not save it. Using the evidence might help get her into Harper's good graces.

Finally, she just stands, closing the drawer and moving to the computer to see if the hard drive hides any other secrets.

"I'll not be privy to this…" Martin finally blurts out with a shake of his head, every moral fiber in his being unwilling to hide or tamper with evidence, it is exactly what he fought against all those years as IA. Storming out of the office, he pushes past Gael who offers a cold stare to the agent's back, then turns his attention to Veronica and Kayla.

"I sincerely hope you do, because it's all of our heads if you don't." Making certain he finds eye contact with both Kayla and Veronica after saying that, Gael is stoicly silent before shaking his head and stepping out of the office, his voice and shoes heard down the hall as he calls out: "Crowley, wait up…"

Kayla's gaze unwaveringly holds Gael's in his silence, and she watches him exit the office, continuing to look towards the hall until even the echoes of the two men's footsteps are below the threshold of audibility.

When she finally speaks, without looking at Veronica, her voice is almost gentle — a strange, strange thing to hear from her.

"We will do what Cruz ordered," Kayla states quietly. "I'll write the sanitized report for archives, based on your debrief from last night. You'll reformat Ahlgren's computer and see to it that those files are destroyed." She pauses a moment, turns her head so she can look at Vee. "It's a holiday; it can wait an hour or two." Like that's actually some kind of concession — but then, it isn't. Another beat of silence, the woman's lips pressing thinly together. "I will also remind you that we have… other… standing orders. I leave fulfilling them to your discretion."

One last pause for those words to sink in, gray eyes sharpening intently upon the agent. "Do you understand?"

Brown eyes seek gray, trying to decipher just what Kayla is suggesting. After a moment, she nods — she either understands or she is reading there what she needs to, in order for her own agenda to find a foothold. "You just want to avoid having to talk to Harper. Admit it," the field agent says finally, a little smirk of gratitude curving her lips and revealing the rarely seen dimples.

Veronica then nods to the letter still in Kayla's hands. "What's that say?" she asks, brows knitting together in curiosity.

Kayla snorts, and doesn't dignify that little quip with a verbal response. Stepping forward, she sets it back down on the desk. "I don't know. I don't need to know: I have a report to write." Shoes clicking against the concrete, she walks towards the door; pauses, one hand resting on its frame as she looks back. "Seems like a shame to destroy it."

Then she leaves, closing the door behind her: Veronica has the dead man's office all to herself.

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