A/N: This is the final chapter I'm posting for Evil Author Day 2021. It is only partially complete and ends pretty abruptly. Sorry about that.

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Chapter Twenty-three: Wrong Note

Much to Reese's dismay and frustration, that "one more thing" turned out to be several more things. For nearly twenty minutes he'd endured a change of bandages, a lecture about keeping up with the antibiotics that he'd been asked to carry with him, and dealing with a dog that apparently had attachment issues. Then, just as he was about to leave, Finch received a call from Dr. Enright who was calling to check in on him as she had apparently promised the day before. He admired how effortlessly his boss side-stepped the truth of his condition, enough so that he wondered how often the older man used the same tactic on him when he was in his right mind. He hated lying to his doctor after she had gone out of her way to help him, but it was necessary in order to get his job done. Besides, the job was more important than how he felt and always would be.

In the end, the little patience he'd had left had been rewarded. Finch, who had previously admitted to not liking guns, had actually led him to what was apparently his stash of weapons, ammunition, and other tools of the trade. He didn't bother to dwell on the other man's reasoning and stocked up on items he thought might be useful out in the field, leaving before he could be delayed any longer.

It had frankly been a relief to finally be out of the Library.

Almost losing his temper with his employer was the last thing he'd wanted to do, but he just couldn't help it. He was tired of Finch fussing over his well-being. His boss had to know his record therefore Finch had to know that he had been injured far worse in the past. Despite how his body was continually urging him to take it easy and rest up, Reese knew he wouldn't do so until he either got the job done or collapsed. Unless physically incapacitated to the point he couldn't move, it had always been how he operated and he hadn't yet seen a reason to change.

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It had been embarrassingly easy for him to get into Sullivan's apartment. He was incredibly thankful since the hard way would have meant climbing a fire escape up to the fourth floor and entering through a window. Easy had definitely been the preferred option and probably just about all he could handle at the moment.

Reese did a quick walk through of the place, looking for any obvious red flags. Spotting nothing unusual, he headed back towards the second bedroom, which was being used as a home office.

When he'd first glanced inside the room, he'd groaned aloud. He suspected Finch would be at home with all the clutter of the Number's research, but to him it was a nightmare. Though there were piles of papers in a range of heights stacked in the middle of the floor and on a work table by the door, it was the way the papers were organized that told him a lot about Sullivan.

There was nothing haphazard about the way the office was organized. Everything seemed to have a place and there was a place for everything, down to the compulsively neat and orderly piles on the wood floor. He knew without a doubt that if he attempted to go through those papers or move anything that his mark would know someone had been in the apartment. The top sheets of each pile indicated that they were copies of documents, research for some project the guy seemed to be working on. Most likely they weren't of any relevance to whatever situation was developing in this guy's life, but he took photos of them all just in case, provoking his injuries.

What was likely to be highly relevant was the laptop lying on the desk by the window. Touching it would be a necessary risk; Finch needed to see any information that might help them figure out why Sullivan's Number had come up. He carefully inserted the USB flash drive and let it do its thing as he continued to search the room.

In a small closet, he found an abundance of new packing and shipping materials, which seemed unusual given what the Number did for a living, making him wonder if they were related to the guy's inflated income. He bypassed the tall, five-drawer file cabinets, deciding to leave them for last and continued his examination of the room's contents. Behind the door, he discovered a coat rack with three suit coats in various colors. The rest of the room was lined with a series of bookshelves containing countless volumes about American history.

Back at the desk, he retrieved the USB flash drive and pocketed it as he headed towards the light gray file cabinets. Starting at the nearest one, he carefully opened the top drawer and found it more than three-fourths full of hanging file folders. Each one was off-white and tabbed with only a date written in pencil, making it impossible to determine what was being kept inside without disturbing anything. None of the folders were hanging open so he went on to the next drawer and the next finding no useful information. Though crouching down to check out the fourth drawer of the middle file cabinet ignited pain receptors all over his body, he finally had his first glance into one of the hanging folders. It was labeled "1861" and was open just enough for him to see its contents.

Inside a plastic sleeve was a letter addressed to President Abraham Lincoln, asking for permission to travel battle sites and take photographs, and was signed M. B. Brady. Reese grunted as he stood straight, surprised at his find; he recognized the sender's name. Mathew Brady was synonymous with the photographic documentation of the American Civil War. He bent down again despite his discomfort and took another look at the letter. Though he didn't know what Brady's signature looked like, the letter itself looked to be authentic in terms of the paper's age and style of handwriting. Just when he was about stand back up he caught a glimpse of a label on the outside of the plastic sleeve which indicated that the Brady letter was normally stored at a museum in Albany. That definitely did not seem right. He would have to check with Finch, but he had a suspicion that museums did not normally loan out their materials to private citizens.

The brief thought of Finch had him itching to check in with his boss. He didn't like having a civilian out in the field, but the older man was absolutely correct about who would and would not look out of place in the archive. His boss should be at the archive by now and he guessed that contact by phone would be out of the question given the likelihood of some sort of rule about phone usage. Debating his options and vetoing waiting until Finch contacted him, he typed out a text, hoping his boss hadn't turned off his phone. While he waited for a response, Reese continued to search the remaining drawers.

With three drawers still to search, his phone beeped, alerting him to a new text. In answer to his request for a sit-rep, Finch had succinctly replied that he was at the archive, had blue-jacked Sullivan's phone, and had seen nothing out of the ordinary as of yet. For some reason, just receiving a reply had calmed him, but having no immediate idea why, he decided that now was not the time to analyze the concept.

In reply, he asked Finch about archives and museums loaning out materials to the homes of private researchers. While he had waited for his employer to respond the first time, in another drawer he'd seen another authentic-seeming document from a different museum than the first. Not knowing lending policies, he had no idea if Sullivan's possession of the documents was illegal or not, though given the fact that the guy's Number had come up, it wasn't too big a stretch to think the worst.

Opening Finch's reply, he discovered that it was the worst. A sudden realization came to him; if all the documents in these cabinets were authentic and not copies, then there had to be thousands of documents and that they all had to have been stolen from various archives and museums. He went back to the Brady letter, took a photo and texted it to Finch, hoping the older man would be able to verify whether or not the item had been stolen.

The museum had not reported any items taken from that time period, but Finch had found a listing on eBay for it.

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This story has been permanently discontinued.

All completed and partially completed chapters have now been posted.

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All mistakes are my fault. I only did a quick read through, and didn't bother asking anyone to proof the chapter.

Thanks for reading!

*Please do not repost or use this or any of my other works on another site or app without my knowledge or consent. FanFiction and Archive of Our Own are the only two sites (as AZGirl on both) where my fiction should be posted. Thank you!