Jane Doe


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Scene Title Jane Doe
Synopsis Agent Quinn is called to the scene of a crime with an agent trainee.
Date January 13, 2019

It’s been a wet winter for New York, so far.

The dark gray skies are cloudy and a drizzling rain is coming down over Red Hook. It’s an hour of the morning just after dawn, when the city is still lazily waking up from a dream of a better tomorrow. Robyn Quinn sits in the passenger seat of a black SUV, watching the scenery whip by as the car she’s in cruises along the elevated highway of I-278. Today, she’s on the clock, Agent Robyn Quinn. Beside her, a young Japanese-American agent-in-training is driving, watching the clock on the center console nervously.

“We’ll be there on time.” The agent-trainee is concerned with punctuality. They all are, at the start of things. “It’s— an honor to work with you, Agent Quinn. People at the academy talk about you and the other, uh,” he hesitates, skipping over something, “the other— famous agents.” Then, briskly, “I mean no disrespect.”

But Robyn’s attention is focused out the passenger window, not on Agent-Trainee Kenji Saito’s voice. Out that window, the gray skyline of Red Hook is awash with drizzling rain. Governor’s Island rests as a strip of green just off the coast, and down below, Robyn can already see the strobing blue and red lights from other matching SUVs gathered around Humvees from the Military Police, all situated around burned warehouses at the inlet of the Gowanus Canal across from an industrial plant. Smoke is still rising up from the warehouses, fire trucks are parked a block away, ensuring that the flames didn’t spread rather than trying to stop the inferno.

Kenji Saito was just excited to be here. Agent Quinn knew better. Calls like this never end well.

Hartford Company Warehouse

Red Hook

New York City Safe Zone

January 13th

8:05 am

By the time they’d pulled off the highway, Agent-Trainee Saito was already on the radio. “This is Agent-Trainee Saito, escorting Field Agent Robyn Quinn into the scene.” This was a SESA-adjunct call, phoned in on routine by the Military Police. According to the Chesterfield Act these sorts of calls are mandatory human rights affairs. The old government had a history of hiding bodies, covering up the deaths of SLC-Expressives. Now, there’s a whole coding system to ensure SESA has eyes-on any event involving people with the Suresh Linkage Complex. Insurance that this wasn’t the old regime.

The call that came in at 7:12 this morning was coded 14-11, meaning grievous injury, the eleven indicates cadavers on site. SESA was there to observe, perform on-site blood tests to see if any of the deceased were SLC-Expressive (if they aren’t registered or identifiable) and ensure that there’s nothing untoward going on. In the time between leaving Governor’s Island and getting across the harbor to Red Hook, Robyn had learned it was a four-alarm fire, contained to a single block of warehouses for an industrial metal shipment company.

As their SUV rolls past fire and rescue, there’s Military Police standing around, talking to one another casually. No one is armed, which is a good sign. Saito turns the SUV in through an open gate in the chain link fence, past two other SESA vehicles where plastic-booted forensics specialists are photographing yellow tags on the ground, likely footprints. Saito brings the car to a stop, turning off the engine, and kicks up a brow to Agent Quinn.

“After you, ma’am.” Saito says with a smile.

Ma’am. Jesus Christ.

Robyn lets out a heavy sight and rolls her eyes. "Just Robyn is fine," she offers to Saito for probably not the first time. She watches him for a moment, before pushing open the door. "Famous or not," she states in a tone that probably readily communicates that this isn't the first she's had to say this, "I'm just another agent, Saito. I appreciate the compliment, though." Assuming it was meant as one. "Try and stay focused on the task at hand."

Away from her desk as she is, she seems just slightly distracted herself. Between her work with Wolfhound and her investigation into the various leads that had presented themselves to her over the last few months, field work had been few and far between. It was refreshing, in a way, to just be out again like a regular agent.

"Alright, Agent-Trainee Saito." As she closes the SUV door behind her and circles around the front, her eyes land on him. "Stick close until we have a better idea what the situation is here." With a deep breath and only a moment's pause, she turns and starts her way towards the closest of the MPs.

"Robyn Quinn, SESA," she remarks, holding up a badge in case anyone on the scene felt the need to call her scarface or be as flippant as the last time she had been at a crime scene. "What can you tell us?" A glance over to Saito, to make sure he's paying attention.

Saito is taking notes on his phone, thumbs tapping wildly, dark eyes flicking between Robyn and the forensics team. The forensics field agent in charge — Masterson, according to his badge — steps away from the footprint analysis and motions to the buildings. “Fire, presumed arson. We’ll know more once Baumann gets down here. Two warehouses went up like kindling, and I’m fairly certain these buildings weren’t containing metal scrap. Chemical analysis will prove if there was accelerant.”

Saito looks up, about to ask a question, but Agent Masterson keeps talking. “We pulled this from the FBI, real pissing contest. Choi thinks this might be connected with the human trafficking investigation, and since they’re targeting SLC-E, that’s our house.”

Clicking the end of his pen repeatedly, Masterson points to the river. “We’ve got four bodies we’re pulling out of the river, three burned beyond recognition. We think they were blown,” he pivots, pointing to a collapsed side of one warehouse, “out the side in an explosion. Fourth body… Young woman, early to mid twenties. I don’t know, I mean… no visible injuries, but.” He grimaces. “It looks pretty clear to me. No, uh, identification, either.” He pauses, brows furrowed, clearly something was amiss.

“The uh, the Jane Doe?” Masterson nods toward the water, “had her whole fucking head encased in concrete. Boys over there are working to get it open so we can get a look at her. If you could supervise ID, that’d be great. I’ve got a fucking zoo’s worth of footprints and animal tracks mixed together here.”

"Concrete?" Robyn had been listening carefully and quietly through the briefing, but that particular detail draws a comment out of her. She tries not to let any bit of surprise show on her face; not in front of the trainee at least. Wearing an eyepatch on the regular helps with that at least. "Evidence of it or the fire being the work of any sort of kinetic or chemical manipulation, at glance?" Even with chemical accelerants, something has to start a fire after all. And concrete either meant someone with a more esoteric form of manipulation, or a deep love of old mafia murder methods.

Turning to Saito, Robyn trains her uncovered eye on him. "If you haven't been briefed on Agent Baumann, she's a postcognative with the ability to project the memories she comes across." There's a small chuckle from the Agent as she rolls her eyes. "Invaluable, when she doesn't let it go to her head."

That probably less than endearing comment given, she turns back to Masterson and nods. "Absolutely, Agent Masterson." She always enjoys showing the other agencies the value in SESA's evolved-centric approaches, after all. "The best we can hope for is that this is…" she pauses, looking around the scene with a heavy, practiced sigh, "at least as routine as something like this can be."

With that, she starts towards where the Jane Doe is being examined. "One of the more… frustrating aspects of our work, Saito, is the uncertainty that comes with it. It rubs some others the wrong way," she elaborates. "Even when an Expressive is proven to be involved in an altercation, the unpredictable nature of our abilities means that any one thing - such as a fire, or a victim being encased in concrete - is rarely as simple as it appears to be. A non-evolved perspective can be crucial in these moments, as well as those of people like Agent Baumann."

A small grin forms on her face. "And sometimes, that makes others nervous about relying on us to solve these problems. Eventually, though…" She trails off as she comes closer to where they work to remove the concrete from the Jane Doe. "Yikes," is how she instead finishes her thought. "It's never pretty either."

All the while, Saito continues to take notes on his phone, nodding along attentively. As he and Robyn approach the waterside, they find a rough gravel slope leading down into dark and icy waters. Three bodies zipped up in black bags are lined along the water’s edge, each marked with sticker-printed QR codes from a mobile device. The fourth body is laid out on a sheet of clear plastic, pallid from her time in the water but not fish-eaten, clearly only an overnight dip. The corpse’s clothes are all dark fabric, like exercise wear, maybe for jogging. Both shoes are missing, feet bare.

“Shouldn't we wait to let the lab crack this?” One of the forensics agents says as Robyn and Saito are approaching. The topic of his conversation is the victim’s head, which is fully encased in a rough and irregularly-shaped lump of coarse stone that on the surface looks like concrete.

Another forensics agent, holding a micro electric saw and a tiny metal wedge is working a seam through the concrete. “Morgue is overburdened with cadaver identifications from a recent mass grave uncovering. They told me to do what we can in the field and document to save time…”

Masterson, who'd come over to see the progress with Robyn and Saito, squints as he looks at the corpse. “It'll be a while before we know of this was mundane fire or Expressive. Honestly chem analysis can probably wait. Once Baumann’s here it'll clear things up faster than days in the lab.” He then turns his attention to the corpse. “Honestly, my money is on a power for that.” He indicates the concrete. “I can't imagine how it’d happen like that otherwise. Fucking hell of a way to die. Some kind of terrakinesis?”

“Most terrakinetics can't work with composite stones,” Saito chimes in, looking up from his phone. “Historically, less than 1%. A more likely example is material metamorphosis, someone who can change the physical composition of solid matter.”

Masterson eyes Saito, one brow raised, and is about to say something when there's a loud crack from the stone and a clattering sound. All eyes quickly settle on the body at the exclamation of, “Jesus fucking Christ!

The forensics team has recoiled from the body. One of them sits on his knees, hand clapped over his mouth and tears welled up in his eyes. Another turns and retches into the water. Masterson looks stunned, brows furrowed, head shaking. Only Saito seems unsurprised as he creeps closer to the remains and looks up at Robyn, inquiry in his eyes.

The corpse’s head is in fine condition, encased in stone as it was. Her complexion is pallid, lips blue, eyes open and flecked with the red of broken blood vessels. But there's black film around her eyes, like runny mascara, spilled down her cheeks. Except, it isn't makeup. Because Robyn and the rest of the forensics team recognizes this corpse.

It's Agent Cassandra Baumann.

Well, not even having one eye hidden can help hide her surprise as the discovery of who the Jane Doe turns out to be. While her reaction isn't as visceral as some of those around her - having seen some shit in her day means at least being somewhat inured to this sort of horrific sight.

That doesn't make it any less horrific though.

"Merde." Hand over her mouth she takes in a deep breath. There's not even a joke to be had, even despite the fact that she could probably come up with several if she wanted to. Instead, she kneels down beside the Agent's corpse and shakes her head. "Well, Agent-Trainee Saito…" A long exhale. "Meet Agent Cassandra Baumann. We're about to become good, if short term, friends with her." Because an Agent is dead. This isn't going to be a short investigation.

"What did you do to earn this?" she asks quietly as she leans closer to her. "Did your father have something to do with it?" That had, after all, been the talk of part of Fort Jay after Cassandra was put on desk duty in the wake of his attempted arrest. "Well… at least there's no question if the victim is Expressive or not," is said in a dour and unwelcome tone.

Agent-Trainee Saito States vacantly at the corpse of the agent people had just talked about with such appreciation and wonder. He tucks his phone away, one hand slowly coming up to his mouth as he shakes his head. No one deserves to die like that.

“I've gotta—” Masterson backs away, grabbing his satellite phone from his jacket pocket. “I have to call this in. Nobody go anywhere!

As Masterson is jogging off, the forensics team are all looking at each other in disbelief. Many of them are young enough to have joined SESA the same time as Cassandra, others had worked side-by-side with her on the identification of war casualties. This was a personal blow.

Saito has his phone out again, tabbing through a database. “Baumann’s last assignment was an arms smuggling case involving a former Humanis First operative named Khalid Sadaka. She was partnered with Agent Cooper.” Saito looks up to Robyn, then slowly approaches the corpse. “Maybe this…” He doesn't finish his sentence. He's sure of nothing now, except a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach.

The more Robyn stares at the body in front of her, the more uneasy she feels. Swallowing hard, she frowns. "Humanis," she grumbles sourly. "Of course." She doesn't dare touch the cadaver in front of her, but she does lean forward and points at her eyes. "This is remnants of her ability if I remember correctly. She may have been making some sort of use of it at…" her time of death.

She purses her lips and closes her eye. "First course of action: Talk to Agent Cooper. Worked together during the war. He was a good choice to look into a smuggling operation with her." She leans back again, looking up at Saito. "No guarantee it's related, but if Humanis was involved, it's a safe bet." Her tone has taken a tone for flat and serious. She maybe shouldn't be making that postulation, but well…

To say Robyn Quinn has a grudge against Humanis First would be an understatement.

Slowly, she rises up to her feet, a hand on Saito's shoulder. "Look carefully for anything that stands out Saito, but don't touch anything. Not, at least, until Masterson gets back."

Crouching down beside the body, Saito looks over the corpse of Cassandra Baumann with great trepidation. For a moment he's overwhelmed by the situation, much as the forensics team is, caught between professional detachment and mourning. Robyn can hear Masterson shouting on his phone, gesturing wildly back to where Cassandra’s body is.

Saito notices that the corpse’s right hand is clenched into a tight fist. There's some stone around her hand as well, fusing fingers together, like the material she was suffocated by wasn't just around her head, or perhaps didn't set immediately. Retrieving a pair of tweezers and a plastic bag from his jacket, Saito reaches into the gap of her fist, tugging something out that he turns over in the dim, gray daylight…

…a small plastic vial filled with a few drops of a glowing blue liquid.

“Refrain,” Saito whispers, looking up to Robyn.

This was only going to get worse.

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