The shelves were empty but dust free. A space bigger than I could ever hope to fill, the office of the supervisor was everything I had strived for, and at the same time, the next step felt like just another broken rung on my climb up the Bureau’s ladder.
What might look to the average person like a mess of photos, maps, and Xerox copies was my way of keeping straight what agent was assigned to which task, which leads were promising, and which person of interest was more interesting than others. One name in particular caught my eye and came up over and over again—a washed-up poker legend by the name of Abernathy. His daughter, Abby, was also in a few black-and-white surveillance photos although I hadn’t gotten to the reports on her involvement yet.
Val came in and watched in awe as I tacked the final pin into the last frayed edge of red yarn. “Whoa, Liis. How long have you been at this?”
“All morning,” I said, admiring my masterpiece while climbing down off my chair. I put my hands on my hips and puffed. “Fantastic, isn’t it?”
Someone knocked on the door. I turned to see Agent Sawyer leaning against the doorway.
“Morning, Lindy. I had a few things I’d like to discuss with you, if you’re not busy.”
Sawyer didn’t look like the creep Val had made him out to be. His hair was freshly trimmed, long enough to run his fingers through but still professional. Maybe he used a bit too much hair spray, but the James Dean coif flattered him. His squared jaw and straight white teeth set off his bright blue eyes. He was kind of beautiful, but something behind his eyes was ugly.
Val made a face. “I’ll let the janitor know you have trash in your office,” she said, shouldering past him.
“I’m Agent Sawyer,” he said, taking the few steps to shake my hand. “I meant to introduce myself yesterday, but I got caught at the courthouse. Late day.”
I walked behind my desk and attempted to organize the stacks of papers and files. “I know. How can I help you, Sawyer?”
Sawyer sat in one of the twin tufted leather club chairs set in front of my large oak desk.
“Have a seat,” I said, making a show of gesturing toward the seat he’d sat in.
“I’d planned on it,” he said.
Slow and without looking away from the pair of ocean-blue eyes across from me, I lowered myself into my oversized office chair, the tall back making me feel like I was sitting in a throne—my throne, and this joker was trying to piss in my court. I stared him down like he was a mangy dog.
Sawyer placed a file on my desk and opened it, pointing to a paragraph highlighted in bright orange. “I’ve previously brought this up before to Maddox, but now that we have a pair of fresh eyes—”
Sawyer stood up like he’d been shot at. “Morning, sir.”
Maddox simply nodded toward the door, and Sawyer scurried off without a word. Maddox slammed the door shut, and the glass wall shuddered, so I didn’t have to.
I leaned back into my throne and crossed my arms, both anticipating and hoping for a dick comment to come out of his perfect mouth.
“How do you like your office?” he asked.
“Your office,” he said, pacing and throwing his hand out at the empty shelves. “Is it to your satisfaction?”
“Good. If you need anything, let me know. And”—he pointed to the glass wall—“if that slimy piece of shit bothers you, you come directly to me, understand?”
“The moment,” he seethed, “he makes a snide remark, questions your authority, or makes a pass at you, you come straight to my office.”
Makes a pass at me? Who does he think he’s fooling? “Why did you assign him to this case if you dislike him so much?”
“He’s good at what he does.”
He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, frustrated. “Just because I have to put up with his bullshit to use his talent doesn’t mean you have to.”
“Are you trying to undermine me?” I sat up. “Is that what your game is? I’ve been trying to figure all of this out. I guess it would look much better to make me seem whiny and incompetent than for you to just run me out on the rails.”
“What? No,” he said, looking genuinely confused.
“I can handle Sawyer. I can handle my newly appointed position. I am capable of running this squad. Is there anything else, sir?”
Maddox realized his mouth was hanging open, and he snapped it shut. “That will be all, Agent Lindy.”
Maddox opened the door, slipped both of his hands into his pants pockets, nodded, and then left, walking toward the security door. I looked up at the clock and knew exactly where he was headed.
Val scampered in, eyes wide. “Holy shit, what was that?”
“I have no idea, but I’m going to find out.”
“He was in a hurry to leave the pub last night. Did he walk you home?”
I ignored her. “I need to burn off some steam. Care to join me?”
“The fitness room during the ASAC’s time? Hell no. You shouldn’t push him, Liis. I get that you two have some weird competition going on, but he is famous for his temper.”
I picked up my gym bag off the floor and jerked it over my shoulder. “If he wants me to push back, I’ll push.”
“To where? Over the edge?”
I thought about that for a moment. “He just came in here all pissy about Sawyer.”
Val shrugged. “Sawyer is a jackass. He makes everyone pissy.”
“No, I got the distinct feeling Maddox was…I realize how this sounds, but he was behaving like a jealous ex-boyfriend. If that’s not it, then I think he gave me this promotion to make me look incompetent. It falls in line with what you’ve said about him before and what he did to me before I got the promotion.”
Val reached into her pocket and opened a small bag of pretzels. She held one to her mouth and chewed on it in small bites like a chipmunk. “I’m leaning more toward your theory that Maddox is jealous, but that’s impossible. First of all, he would never be jealous of Sawyer.” Her face twisted. “Second, he just isn’t wired that way anymore, not since that girl made him hate anything with a vagina.”
I wanted to remind her that he hadn’t slept with anyone before me either, but that would imply that I wanted him to be jealous, and I didn’t. “What makes you think it was her fault?” I asked.
That made her pause. “He was in love with that girl. Have you been in his office?”
“Those empty shelves used to hold several frames with pictures of her. Everyone knew how much he struggled to do the job and love her the way he thought she deserved. Now, no one talks about it—not because he did something wrong, but because she broke his heart, and no one wants to make him more miserable than he already is.”
I ignored her. “I’m an intelligence analyst, Val. It’s in my nature to piece together bits of information and form a theory.”