Once Upon A Time…Has Never Been This Hot.
Mallory palmed her head, trying to rub away the growing headache. After hours of scouting the area and a few more talking with the victim’s family, they hadn’t been able to confidently add a single person to their list of possible assailants. And seeing as their prime suspect was sitting in the morgue, there was little to go on.
“It’s four o’clock. Why don’t you just call it a day and head home? I’ll call you when forensics has any news.”
Cole’s voice ghosted over her and she looked up, smiling at the warm brown eyes that met her gaze. He was a large man, well over six feet, with bulging muscles and black hair. His mocha-coloured skin accentuated high cheekbones and perfect long lashes she’d wished for on more than one occasion. But it was always his eyes that intrigued her, deep brown and brimming with intelligence and compassion. He was, without a doubt, her best friend.
She leant back in her chair, accepting the handful of pills he gave her. She reached for her water bottle, downing them in one gulp. “You’ve been here the same amount of time and I don’t see you grabbing your keys.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, but we both know I’m tougher than you so...” He chuckled as he dodged the wadded-up paper she threw at his head.
“Ah, but you say it so nicely.”
She pushed to her feet, ready to launch her water bottle at him when Director Henderson walked over to her desk.
She gave Cole a sideways look then turned towards Don. “Something on your mind?”
“I need a few minutes of your time.” He waved in the direction of his office.
Cole tapped him on the shoulder. “Just her, or do I get to come along, too?”
Don shook his head. “Mallory’s right. You’re a jackass.”
“But I’m your star jackass...sir.”
Mallory rolled her eyes. “Just one question, Don. Should I bring a notepad or a lawyer?”
He grimaced. “Just come on in.”
She looked over at Cole, but the man simply shrugged and followed the director into the room. She sighed and pushed her chair back, hoping her legs didn’t wobble as she moved down the aisle, slipping past the door Don held open for her. She headed for his desk, taking a spot beside Cole as the man shouldered against the far wall, gazing out the window towards the park across the street.
Don angled the door on a forty-five then walked over to his desk. He didn’t ask them to sit, just eased into his chair, grabbing a mug as he leant back. “Quite a mess we’ve got on our hands with this new...development.”
Mallory scanned the room then settled on his face. “Quite honestly, sir, it’s a bit early to panic. All we know for sure is that a woman’s dead and it has similarities to another string of crimes.”
Don chuckled. “Similarities? Damn, Mallory, are you sure you don’t want to go into politics or something? ’Cause you sure do talk the talk.”
“It’s not just talk. Though I know my partner has doubts, it just doesn’t seem possible that John Davies was in any way connected to this murder. And I stand behind our original findings.” She moved closer, palming her hands on his desk. “That son of a bitch was as evil as they get. Not only did he rape and kill those girls, he enjoyed doing it. Every piece of evidence we found linked him to those murders, not to mention the fact we caught him bent over the last victim’s body!” She pushed away, resisting the urge to draw her fingers down her scar. “The bastard confessed for Christ’s sake, not to mention refusing every attempt at an appeal. So regardless of this recent development, his sentence was justified, no matter how you look at it.”
Don sighed and shifted forward in his chair. “Easy, Mallory. I didn’t bring the two of you in here to question your competence. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.” He cleared his throat, taking a swig of coffee before meeting her stare. “As you can imagine, Washington has quite a vested interest in how we proceed with this investigation. With Davies’ body still warm in the morgue, they’re hoping that we’ll do everything in our power to keep the details of this case, shall we say, private. As such, they’ve decided to appoint a small, three-man team to head this undertaking—”
“So just like that, we’re off the case?” Cole stepped forward, his massive body taking up most of the space on Mallory’s side of the desk. “What kind of bullshit is that? High profile or not, nobody knows Davies’ MO like us. Hell, it’ll take a new team weeks just to go through his old file—”
“Cole. If I may finish.”
Cole grumbled something under his breath but nodded, finally taking a seat in one of the chairs.
Don ran a hand through his hair, giving Mallory an exasperated look. “As I was saying. Headquarters in DC has picked a team, and they’d like the two of you to be part of it. As you mentioned, Cole, no one knows Davies like the agents who worked the original case. I have a feeling that knowledge will be indispensable in this matter. So effective immediately, you’re to forego any other cases and ensure all your resources go to putting whoever did this in jail.” Don looked them both in the eye. “Any questions?”
“Just one.” Mallory leant forward, resting one hip on the edge of his desk. “Why did you bring us in here to tell us? Seems you could have just mentioned it in passing at our desks?”
The man fidgeted at his desk, shuffling papers as he mumbled beneath his breath. He finally raised his gaze to her, an apologetic smile gracing his lips. “As happy as you are to be part of the team, there’s a small aspect that might cause some friction.”
Mallory furrowed her brow, not sure where the director was heading, when Cole cursed and slapped one hand on his leg. She turned to him, eyebrow raised in question.
He gave her a knowing look. “The third guy.”
She glanced from Don back to Cole. “Third guy? What are you talking about?”
Cole motioned towards Don. “Don said Headquarters was putting together a three-man team. And if they want agents who worked on the original case, then...”
“Ah, shit.” She glared at Don. “They requisitioned Carter, didn’t they? Damn, he’s a whiny, arrogant jerk. I personally celebrated the day he transferred.” She sank into the other chair and ran a shaky hand through her hair. She’d hoped she’d never have to work with the man again, but...
She looked up as Don’s voice broke through her thoughts. She met his gaze, not sure if he was amused or agitated. “Yes, sir.”
“Carter isn’t part of the team. He quit and went private a year ago, shortly after leaving here. And you’re right, the man’s an ass.”
Mallory sighed then felt her breath hitch in her chest. There’d only been a few agents involved with the Davies case, and if they hadn’t picked Carter... She forced herself to swallow as she stared at the director. “So who’s going to be the source of my...displeasure?”
“That would be me.”