Jason arrived at the diner early and took a booth near the back to wait for the arrival of Detective Gene Conrad and his FBI counterpart. He was halfway through a cup of coffee when the two showed up. The woman standing next to Gene Conrad was not at all what he was expecting in a FBI agent. She was not much older than he was from the looks of it. He felt himself staring at her while she and Gene made themselves at home in the booth.
Gene made the introductions. “Mr Telford, this is FBI Special Agent Winona Kent.” She extended her hand across the table as he continued, “and this is the guy who found the woman on the beach, Jason Telford.” Jason nodded politely at Agent Kent while keeping his hands on his coffee cup. She nodded back at him and withdrew her hand. “Sorry about picking this place, but I thought we should meet somewhere where nobody knew us.”
“At least it’s clean,” Agent Kent brushed away a few crumbs from her place at the table. “What’s good?”
“Coffee’s drinkable,” Jason took a sip of his coffee and gestured at a waitress.
Detective Conrad ordered a cup, but Special Agent Kent declined in favor of tea. The waitress nodded and returned quickly with their beverages.
“About the case,” Winona was very direct with her question, “how exactly did you find this woman?”
“I was looking for driftwood after a bad storm. I found her in the middle of a patch of seaweed and driftwood. She was clutching a piece when I found her. I called for an ambulance and started CPR. The rest should be in the police files.” Jason spun his cup nervously while he spoke.
Winona reached across the table and touched his hand. “There’s no mention of the driftwood in the files we received.”
“I know, because I didn’t tell anyone about it until now.” Jason looked at Winona. “I collect driftwood and it was too interesting a piece to let go. And it had writing on it.”
“What kind of writing?” Gene put down his cup and took out his notebook.
“That’s just it. I couldn’t tell at first. But while she was in the hospital, it said ‘home sweet home’. It doesn’t say that now.”
Winona turned to Gene, “Detective Conrad, please tell me I’m not wasting my time.”
Gene smiled back at her and asked Jason a follow-up. “What does it say now?”
“Last night it said ‘rescue me’.” Jason slurped down the last of his coffee. “I’m not crazy, am I?”
“Where’s the driftwood now?”
“Somewhere safe.” Jason stared at Gene. “I thought we were here to share. So far I’ve done all the talking.”
“Fair enough,” Detective Conrad said as he pulled some papers out from his coat. “Lucky for us, I’d made paper copies of the files. I found myself removed from the case moments after your phone call. I asked around and nobody had heard of this Detective Andrews.”
“You told me that already.”
“Just after that, the forensics arrived from Quantico that showed some inconsistencies. That’s when I made contact with Agent Kent here.”
“Could one of you please tell me something that I don’t already know?” Jason pleaded.