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Cooper and Vivian sat in the back seat of the unit wondering what the hoopla was all about.
"Why can't we take our unit?" Cooper looked at Nate searching for an answer. They had worked with the FBI on delicate cases before, and this was not the protocol.
"This one is a little sensitive," Nate explained to Cooper and the looked over at Vivian, "I know you were moving this weekend, so the Bureau is going to pay to move you. They will even have an agent monitor the movers."
"I appreciate it, but I already hired movers," Vivian looked over at Nate from her spot behind Mason, "so it won't be necessary."
"They insisted," Nate looked over at her pressing the issue, "they said it was the least they could do for pulling your vacation, so they will pay your movers."
Vivian looked over at Cooper, who looked just as concerned as her.
"No, Nate," Vivian was now insisting, "My movers will be fine."
"Alright," Nate acted as if he was surprised at her insistence, "I'll let them know."
Vivian and Cooper seemed to have missed it, but Nate and Mason exchanged a glance, and noted to talk later.
Vivian and Cooper gave each other the same look after the glance, wondering what that shit was all about.
"So, what's this case about that we would get called off of vacation before being able to take it?" Cooper inquired as Mason continued on his way to Statesboro.
"I know very little," Nate turned to the two in the back, "I was told to come get you three, offer to pay for your move, and that we would be fully briefed in Statesboro."
"What do you know so far?" Vivian eyed him suspiciously.
"There was a burglary," Nate looked over at her and made a mental note to tone it down with Mason, "some buildings on federal property around here."
Vivian nodded knowing there was more to it.
The group arrived in Statesboro shortly before Ben and Lane.
Vivian and Cooper walked over to the coffee and poured themselves a cup; a nice distraction for a private conversation.
"Is it me or are Nate and Mason getting a bit chummy?" Cooper turned his back to the group of officers and agents gathered for the briefing.
Vivian looked relieved when he finished the statement, "I didn't want to say anything, but I noticed it, too." Vivian considered what she saw in the unit. "Did you see the look they gave each other after I refused Nate's offer?"
Cooper nodded, "I know they thought we didn't see it, it was quick but it was there." Cooper turned back to look at the group, glancing around to see who was there.
Ben walked over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup.
"What are you two love birds talking about?" Ben chuckled out as he walked up.
"Word travels fast," Cooper commented with a grin and took a sip of his coffee.
"So what are y'all chatting about?" Ben stepped over to pour himself a cup.
"I was just saying, how I noticed how chummy Mason and Nate have become," Vivian mentioned to Ben also taking a sip.
Ben sighed out of relief but it seemed a bit put on, "I'm glad y'all noticed,too." Ben took the conversation to a remote corner. "It seems to have been going on for a few months, but when me and Lane walked over to where they were, they quit talking, like we interrupted a private conversation."
"Did you hear what they were talking about?" Cooper was concerned, but, after the obvious show, didn’t think Ben would say anything.
"No, I didn't," Ben glanced back in the direction of the group and took a sip.
Vivian glanced at Cooper when Ben turned to look around. Cooper nodded, they seemed to be getting the same feeling that Ben wasn't being completely honest with them either.
"Look, I'm not going to be throwing y'all under the bus, but, just to separate the two of them, I'm going to offer to take Mason."
"Okay," Cooper nodded figuring this was somehow a devised plan.
Ben walked over to join the group, but Vivian and Cooper hung back to talk to one another.
"That was a little disconcerting," Cooper looked over at Vivian, blocking his mouth with his cup, and then taking a sip.
"A convenient distraction," Vivian said as she looked toward the group, "from him."
"Yeah," Cooper turned his back to the group again, "I got that, too."
Vivian sighed and looked up at Cooper, "Is it because we went through what we did, or is it what it is?"
"I think," Cooper shook his head and looked down at the floor, "we are more observant to it because of what we went through."
Vivian nodded as Lane walked up.
"Hey Lane," Vivian reached out and shook his hand.
"What are y'all talking about over here?" Lane looked up at them with a smile, and grabbed a cup off the table.
"Just wondering what they canceled our vacation for," Cooper chuckled out with a shrug.
"Yeah," Lane nodded and poured the coffee, "it must be pretty serious."
The agent in charge then called everyone to the seats. He began to explain several National Parks buildings were broken into in the area. It appears to be Eco-terrorists by the evidence left at the scene.
The officers were sworn in as temporary federal agents and divided among the agents.
"Viv, Coop, Lane," Nate called out, "you're with me, and we're off to South Carolina. Ben, Mason and Agent Justin Phillips are going to handle a different one East of Savannah."
"Where are we headed in South Carolina?" Cooper looked over at Nate on the way to the unit.
"Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge," Nate turned to Cooper as he opened the door to the unit.
"I have to admit," Vivian looked at the men with a grin, "it's going to be fun to leave the state."
The trip was quiet for a while when Nate spoke up, "I hear you two are an item now?"
Vivian and Cooper smiled at each other.
"Yeah," Cooper looked over at Nate, who watched them in the rearview mirror, "we are."
"Now, to get you two married off," Nate said as if he were thinking of a way to do it.
"Nate!" Vivian yelled as they all laughed.
The four laughed the whole way to Pinckney Island.
Before they knew it the hour and a half drive was over and they were turning on to the property.
"ID," the officer at the gate greeted them. Nate showed his credentials and the officer responded, "All the way to the back."
Nate drove them through the wooded island to the back of the property. Nate parked at one particular building and they all left with their gear. Vivian went to the back of the unit and grabbed the crime scene kit.
They greeted the Agent at the front of the building and he let them in. It was obvious the building had been ransacked from the moment they entered. Several words had been spray painted on the walls, and items were in general disarray. Vivian looked up to see “Free The Caged” and the anarchy symbol on the wall directly across from the main entrance. She glanced further into the building to see the walls and desks with random spray paint lines.
All four pulled on gloves and Vivian began to open paper bags for them all to deposit evidence should it be necessary. Cooper and Nate began walking slowly through the building taking photos of everything from different angles. Vivian set up a few dozen bags and pulled her own camera out. Lane began to look for things to fingerprint. She walked passed the men who were busy. She made her way to an office about 20 feet past the men. She took several pictures of the door, which was off the door frame, and had obviously been forcibly removed. She looked closer at the door frame, and could see it had been heavily reinforced. She took several pictures of the door frame, and stepped passed it to the office. She took many more pictures as she made her way to the desk. She could see it had been forcibly opened, and the bottom drawer was empty. She continued looking through the office, and soon discovered something in the corner near a book case. She called Cooper on his cell phone and asked him to join her.
He soon walked in the office, "What you got?"
"Look at this book case," she said as she got on the floor. "It sits ever-so-slightly off of the floor."
Cooper joined her on the floor, and he, too, could see how it wasn't resting on the floor.
They both stood up and Vivian pulled on the book case, which swung open.
"What do y'all have here?" Lane surprised them from the doorway.
"That’s what we are still trying to figure out," Cooper glanced over at him as they examined the doorway the intruders had already breached.
The two squatted down to look at how the suspects entered the room.
"Liquid nitrogen?" Vivian was confused, as she looked a glass shards that appeared to have broken on impact of some blunt object.
"It has to be," Cooper looked at the evidence as Lane walked up. "Look at how the metal shattered."
Vivian stood up and walked to the doorway, and Lane took her place to have a look.
"Nate," Vivian called him over and walked back to the doorway.
"What is it?" Nate walked into the room to see them over by the, now open, book case door.
"Why in the hell does the National Parks Service have an office with a hidden reinforced door to a secret room?" Vivian looked over at him as Cooper stood up to hear the answer.
Vivian walked over to the desk where the kit was, and retrieved the items she needed to collect the evidence from the doorway.
"I don't know," Nate looked as confused as they felt.
"You're FBI," Cooper offered angrily, "and have a clearance, they need to tell you what this place is, 'cause this shit ain't the Parks Service."
"Can we enter that room?" Vivian glared at him equally angry.
"I wasn't told any different," Nate pulled out his phone as Lane turned to look at him.
"It looks like they used liquid nitrogen to break the door off the hinges," Vivian raised her eye brows as she watched Nate and pointed to the door. "Which means whoever broke in here knew what this place is, and came prepared."
Nate glanced at Lane and then looked at the hidden door.
"Let me make a call," Nate walked out of the room as he put the phone to his ear.
Cooper walked to the doorway and watched Nate walk outside. He turned to Lane, "Did you know anything?"
Lane looked at him shocked, "No, why would I know?"
"It seems like everyone is in the loop but us lately," Vivian snapped as she finished getting everything she needed out of the kit.
"What are you talking about?" Lane was taken aback by their comments.
Cooper sighed in disgust and started to say something.
"It's nothing Lane," Vivian walked over to the doorway to collect the evidence, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you, I'm just tired."
"Don't sweat it Viv," Lane looked confused as he watched her squat down to finish her job, "but their has to be something to what you just said."
"No, I'm just tired and my temper is short," Vivian looked up at him as she finished. She shot several more pictures of the door and door frame.
Cooper looked at his watch, "We've been here for four hours already. We're all tired, hungry and need a smoke."
"That is a fantastic idea," Vivian finished sealing the evidence envelope containing the doorway debris.
Cooper and Vivian walked together to the front of the building, deposited their gloves in a particular evidence bag, and stepped outside. Vivian lit a cigarette as they stepped out and handed the pack and the lighter to Cooper.
Vivian looked over and saw Nate standing about a hundred yards away, wondering who he was calling, and still wondering why she didn’t have an answer on what this place is.
"The manager of the building is on his way," Nate looked over at the two as he stopped to talk to them, "and a crime scene unit from the bureau is on the way to process the rest of the building."
"Why didn't they do that to begin with?" Cooper was incredulous. This could have been done from the beginning.
"Which also means we can't enter the last room," Vivian added the anger written on her face.
"No, you can't," Nate watched the two, "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
Vivian and Cooper sighed in disgust. Vivian walked away shaking her head, and tossed her cigarette, "I'm going to go collect our equipment."
"I have to go with you," Nate told her apprehensively.
"Are you serious?" Vivian stopped and turned to him, now disgusted.
Nate nodded, "I wouldn't have come had I known."
Cooper tossed his cigarette and the three walked in to collect their belongings.
Vivian and Cooper quickly collected their equipment, and walked out to the unit to put it in the back.
Cooper, Nate and Vivian stood outside near the unit talking, about what had just happened. The pair still angry that it never crossed someone’s mind that they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, enter the building.
"I'm sorry guys," Nate apologized again, "I wouldn't have come had I known."
"How did it not cross someone's mind that we might not be allowed to enter it?" Cooper questioned as the sun, now fully risen, warmed them.
"They didn't report it properly," Nate looked just as exasperated.
"I have a question," Vivian watched as Nate turned to her.
"Shoot Viv, you know that," Nate was surprised she wouldn’t just ask the damn question.
"Lane has a clearance?" She was disgusted, and curious why Nate never noticed Lane was still in the building.
Nate questioned her with his look, and then realization crossed his face. He ran inside to get Lane.
Cooper turned to Vivian as they leaned against the unit, "That wasn't an 'oh, crap I forgot he was in there', was it?"
"No, it wasn't," Vivian watched as several vehicles pulled in the area of the building, “that was a ‘oh, that’s right, he’s not supposed to.’”
"I was sort of wondering if he would notice," Cooper paced on the side of the SUV.
"I was getting to impatient to wait for him to realize it," Vivian grumbled as they looked over to see this new team gathering their equipment.
Vivian knew the guys would never have any ill intent toward her or Cooper, but since her beat down she can’t help but feel paranoid. The idea that everyone was against her, or trying to “get” her, was not a stranger to her, but she hated it. She and Lane went back a long way, and Nate was her buddy. It was completely irrational, but she couldn’t shake the feeling.