Thomas nodded, stood up, and then walked into the living room to dress in silence. He stood in the doorway of my bedroom with his shoes in one hand, his keys in the other, his tie hanging askew from his neck. I tried not to stare, but I did, so I could study every inch of him to remember and fantasize over for the rest of my life.
He looked down and then chuckled, judgment still absent from his expression. “Thanks for a great and unexpected end to a shitty Monday.” He began to turn around.
I pulled the blanket across me and sat up. “It’s not you. You were great.”
He turned back to face me, a smirk on his shadowed face. “Don’t worry about me. I’m not walking out of here, doubting myself. You gave me fair warning. I wasn’t expecting anything more.”
“If you wait a second, I’ll walk you out.”
“I know the way. This is my building. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.”
My cheeks paled. “You live in this building?”
He peered up at the ceiling. “Just above you.”
I pointed up. “The next floor up, you mean?”
“Yes, but,” he said with a sheepish grin, “my place is right above yours. But I’m rarely home.”
I swallowed, horrified. So much for a strings-free one-night stand. I began nibbling at my thumbnail, trying to think of what to say next. “Okay…well, I guess good night then?”
DRINKING AWAY JACKSON’S GUILT TRIP the night before my first day in the San Diego field office proved not to be the most intelligent thing I’d done.
I arrived with only my vest, and I was given a sidearm, credentials, and a cell phone once I’d checked in. Assigned to Squad Five, I found the only empty desk, vacated by the last agent who hadn’t meshed with the infamous Assistant Special Agent in Charge, who we referred to as the ASAC. I had heard about him all the way in Chicago, but it would take more than a bad temper to scare me away from a chance at a promotion.
Only a few sections of the desk’s surface didn’t have a light film of dust, probably from where his or her computer and belongings had been set. My headphones case sat next to my laptop, and a lack of picture frames or miscellaneous decor looked rather pathetic compared with the other desks in the squad room.
“That’s pathetic,” a female voice said, making me wonder if I’d spoken my thoughts aloud.
A woman, young but slightly intimidating, stood with her arms crossed and resting on the ledge of the four-by-five fabric-covered wall that separated my cubicle from the main hallway that was used to get from one end of the squad room to the other. Her shiny but otherwise ordinary brown hair was pulled into a low bun at the nape of her neck.
“I can’t disagree,” I said, wiping the dust away with a paper towel.
I had already put my vest in my locker. It was the only thing I had brought from the Chicago office. I had moved to San Diego to start over, so it didn’t make much sense to put my old life on display.
“I don’t mean the dust,” she said, watching me with her hooded green eyes. Her cheeks were a bit chubby, but that only gave away her youth. She was certainly fit everywhere else.
“I’m Val Taber. Don’t call me Agent Taber, or we can’t be friends.”
She made a face. “What else would you call me?”
“Agent Taber,” a tall, slender man said as he walked by. He smirked as if he knew what would follow.
“Fuck off,” she said, pulling a file from his hands. She glanced at it and then looked back to me. “You’re the intelligence analyst? Lisa Lindy?”
“Liis,” I said, cringing. I had never gotten used to correcting people. “Like geese but with an L.”
“Liis. Sorry. I hear you got fast-tracked.” Her voice was laced with sarcasm. “I call bullshit, but it’s not really any of my business.”
She was right. Being a female federal agent who specialized in languages had all but rolled out the red carpet for my transfer, but I had been instructed not to mention my specialization to anyone unless I had approval from my supervisor.
I looked over at the office of the supervisor. It was even more barren than my desk. Getting any approval from an empty office would prove to be difficult.
“You’re correct,” I said, not wanting to get into specifics.
It was pure luck that Squad Five had needed a language expert the moment I’d decided to leave Chicago. The stressed discretion meant there was likely an issue within the Bureau, but assuming wouldn’t have helped score a transfer, so I’d filled out my paperwork and packed my bags.
“Great.” She handed me the file. “Title Three for you to transcribe here. Maddox also wants a FD-three-oh-two. The first email in your inbox should be from the welcome wagon, and the next should be an audio file from Maddox. I went ahead and brought you copies of the FD-three-oh-twos and a CD until you get used to our system. He wants you to get started right away.”
Title Threes, known to Hollywood and the general public as phone or wire taps, made up a large portion of my function at the Bureau. Recordings were created, and then I would listen, translate, and write a report—also known as the infamous FD-302. But the Title Threes typically given to me were in Italian, Spanish, or my mother’s language, Japanese. If the recording were in English, the OST—the squad secretary—would transcribe it.
Something told me that Val thought something was off about an analyst interpreting a Title Three, because curiosity—or maybe suspicion—was flickering in her eyes. But she didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell. As far as I knew, Maddox was the only agent who knew about my true purpose in San Diego.
She winked at me and smiled. “Want me to show you around later? Anything you didn’t get to during the orientation tour?”
I thought about that for half a second. “The fitness room?”
“I know that one. I frequent there after work—right before I frequent the bar,” she said.
“Agent Taber,” a woman with a tight bun said as she walked by.
“Fuck off,” she said again.
She shrugged. “They must love it, or they wouldn’t talk to me.”
My mouth pulled to the side while I tried to suppress a laugh. Val Taber was refreshing.
“We have a squad meeting first thing in the a.m.” She pondered that for a moment. “I’ll show you the fitness room after lunch. It’s sort of off-limits between eleven and noon. The boss likes to focus,” she said, whispering the last bit and making a show of putting her fingers to one side of her mouth.
“My desk,” Val said, pointing to the next cubicle over. “We’re neighbors.”
“What’s with the stuffed bunny?” I asked, referring to the gangly white rabbit with Xs sewn on for eyes, sitting on the corner of her desk.
Her slight triangle of a nose wrinkled. “It was my birthday last week.” When I didn’t reply, her face screwed into disgust. “Fuck off.” A grin slowly stretched across her face, and then she winked at me before rounding the corner to return to her desk. She sat in her chair and turned her back to me, opening her email on her laptop.