I knew something was up as soon as Eames got to the conference room.
For starters, Beemer had come in a minute before and he'd been walking funny.
That alone had me curious, but not necessarily suspicious.
But then she'd come in and I could tell that she was mad as hell. After a quick visual inspection, I saw that she had chafed skin on the underneath side of her wrists.
She caught me looking, and she gave me a slight shake of her head.
But I put two and two together.
She'd specifically said that if he touched her again, he'd be walking with a limp.
And he'd come into the room looking like he'd spent three days on a horse.
I looked at Beemer, who was sitting at the far end of the table and avoiding eye contact.
That son of a bitch.
"Did you get your photo taken care of?" Stahl asked Eames, oblivious to the undercurrent in the room.
"I did, although they were surprised to see me," she replied pointedly. "Apparently I wasn't expected to show up until after the nine o'clock meeting. Which, by the way Bobby, is when they want you to come by."
I nodded, but continued to look at Beemer.
Had he set her up to get her away from me?
Eames came around and sat down next to me. She didn't say anything, but she brushed her arm against mine as she reached for the file on the table, and I knew that was intentional.
That was as comforting a touch as I was going to get at the moment.
"Okay, well let's get down to it then," Stahl said as the rest of the task force came into the room.
These were the agents who had been working on the Marcovic case.
I'd seen them all, but now was the opportunity to get a better read on them, so I forced my ire at Beemer from my mind, although I would absolutely come back to it later.
We spent the next forty-five minutes going over the results of the sting.
There had been seven arrests made and three more were pending. Stahl felt confident that the key players had been brought down, and whoever remained free were too insignificant to matter.
While Stahl and Beemer talked, I watched the faces of the others.
Five men and two women made up the task force, including Stahl and Beemer.
The other woman was Paige McHale, a forty-something year old agent with a husband and four kids. She seemed to be a solid agent, although she also appeared somewhat indifferent. Maybe she'd just been hardened by twenty years in the Bureau, I don't know.
I couldn't picture her being in bed with the likes of Hassan. But I couldn't necessarily rule her out, either.
Beemer was still at the top of Eames' suspect list, but I had my doubts. He was being too obvious about it. His blatant like - or dislike, it was hard to tell which - for Eames was a dead giveaway. Surely if he had something to hide, he would've learned by now to play nice with others.
Wouldn't he? Or was that part of his game?
Two of the other men were older and for some reason, for me that seemed to lessen their plausibility factor.
Clarence Bourque and Hugh Workman.
Each nearing retirement, each divorced, and each slightly soft. I didn't think that either of them had the guts required to try to pull one over on the Bureau.
The other two I was less sure about.
Joey Banta and Lucien Rivas.
Banta couldn't be long out of the academy. He was no more than thirty and appeared ambitious, but he also seemed to have a bit of a problem with authority.
He hadn't exhibited any hostility toward me or Eames but he liked to question Stahl's directives. And true, she wasn't his boss, but she was in charge of this particular task force.
He was single and proud of his success picking up women. I hadn't talked to him except on a few occasions and yet I'd already heard several of his stories, as though I should be impressed by his prowess.
Which led me to believe that the truth was probably more the opposite. He probably hadn't been laid in a long time.
Not that I was going to judge him for that.
Until last Friday night, it had been a long damn time for me, too.
But the difference was that I didn't talk about it. The presence of, or lack of, sex in my personal life was a private matter as far as i was concerned.
But still…the fact that he was a self-important, exaggerating blowhard didn't make him a traitor.
It didn't mean that he'd given Ross up to Hassan.
But it didn't mean that he didn't, either. I was going to dig a little deeper into his file.
Rivas was almost the opposite of Banta, and yet had me just as suspicious. He was quiet and followed orders without fail.
But did he do that so as not to call attention to himself?
He was married and had a small child at home.
Again, that could mean one of two things.
Either he was more inclined to keep his nose clean or he was an easier target for a guy like Hassan. Rivas could be manipulated because his family could be used as leverage.
"So, are there any questions?" Stahl was saying, and I realized then that I'd missed at least the last ten minutes of the discussion.
"No," Banta said, getting up from the table. "So this assignment is over, right? I can move on to the next case?"
Translate: I can get out from under your thumb.
"For now," Stahl said carefully.
She was watching him, too, I could tell, but for the purpose of what?
Did she suspect a mole as well?
Or did she just not like him?
"It's been real, people," Banta said as he left the room.
"Dickhead," McHale muttered. Eames flashed me a smirk as she got up from her chair.
"You said that we'd be working with another agent on one of their cases?" she asked Stahl.
"Well, um…not exactly," she hedged. "Goren, you head on down to HR and then come back here when you're done. We don't have desks for you two yet, but um..."
She trailed off as the other agents filtered out of the room. I gave Beemer my best glare as he shuffled slowly to the door, but he never took his eyes from the floor.
"I'll meet you up on six," he said to Stahl as he went by.
She nodded at him, but kept her mouth shut as she watched Rivas, who was the last one to leave, and then she turned back to us.
"I'll have the agent meet you here," she said firmly.
"Why all the cloak and dagger?" I asked her.
"There's been some moaning about you two getting special treatment. And this case that we want you on…it's pretty high profile."
"Which means everyone wants in on it, right?" Eames said knowingly.
"You got it," Stahl agreed. "Goren, I understand that you've got some experience in profiling, is that right?"
"Good. You'll come in handy on this one."
"And you want me to…what? Get the coffee?" Eames asked her.
"No," Stahl said slowly, holding her gaze but not explaining her seriousness. "But you'll be useful, too. Just wait and let the agent brief you, okay?"
She left us alone in the conference room.
"What the hell was all that about?" Eames asked me.
"First things first," I said as I grabbed her by the hand. I held up her wrist so that I could look more closely at the abrasions. "What the hell is this about?"
"Beemer got wind of my complaint," she explained. "He caught up with me in the stairwell.
"And he did what?" I asked, and now my anger was coming back. There was only one scenario I could think of that would leave her with marks like that.
"He tried to assert his authority," she replied vaguely. "But you saw him limping, right?"
"I did," I agreed hesitantly. "You're not going to tell me more than that?"
"Come on," she said, tipping her head towards the door. "I'll go with you down to HR. I'll tell you about it on the way."
She was quiet as we went through the bullpen and into the stairwell. As soon as the door closed behind us and we were alone, I touched her on the arm.
She stopped and closed her eyes as she took a deep breath.
"I let down my guard," she admitted. "I didn't think about getting jumped in the damn federal building."
"He ambushed you?"
"Yes. He pushed me against the wall and held me there while he explained why he'd checked me so closely. He said it's a trust thing. He wanted to make sure that I wasn't packing, and since I was, now he's questioning why I don't trust the Bureau."
I ignored my rage as I dealt with the professional aspect.
"What did you tell him?"
"That it takes longer than ten weeks to earn that kind of trust. And the fact that he jumped me in the stairwell proved my point."
"Okay," I said with a slow nod. I held her hand up again and ran my finger over the abraded skin. "And then what?"
"Then I elbowed him in the gut and kicked him in the balls."
I wanted to go find him and beat him to a pulp, but I just couldn't do it.
Not right now, anyway.
I'd said that I'd let her handle it, and she did.
But I could tell that she was thrown.
"Are you okay?"
"It's just…I shouldn't have let him get that close. There's no excuse."
"We have to remember that we don't know who the enemy is," I said softly.
"I know," she agreed. "I won't let it happen again."
"Oh, it's not going to happen again. Not from Beemer," I assured her.
She didn't ask questions, and I didn't elaborate. Instead, we went down to HR and took care of procuring our FBI identification.
"Oh, Agent Eames," the woman behind the desk said cheerfully. "I have your ID ready. And yours will be ready in a minute, too, Agent Goren. See, it normally only takes a few minutes, but since we weren't expecting you…"
"That's fine," Alex replied. She took the leather bound ID from the woman and started to turn away, but then stopped. "So, did you call up to the secretary and she just got the time wrong?"
"No. Agent Stahl promised to send you after your meeting. I didn't call anyone."
"Okay. Thank you."
We left HR a few minutes later and went back up the stairs.
"So Beemer called the secretary. He set up the meeting in the stairwell," I commented. "He made a point to tell her that they only wanted you so that you'd be alone."
"Uh huh," she agreed thoughtfully, and then she shifted gears. "So I saw you watching everyone in that meeting this morning. Who are you thinking?"
"You first," I said. We were back up to the fourth floor by now, but we lingered in the stairwell to finish our conversation.
And see, despite what people might think, I always love to hear Eames' assessment of people.
She comes at them from a different angle than me and often times she picks up on things that I miss.
I might have the reputation for being the smart one, but I've got nothing on her.
And I resented the implication that Stahl had made, about the idea that I would be the one to come in handy on the next case.
Although, she said that they had something else in mind for Eames, and suddenly that idea made me nervous.
What had she meant by that?
"Rivas," she said. "He'd be an easy target and he's trying to stay under the radar."
"What do you think of Banta?" I encouraged.
"I can't decide. It's possible that his obnoxious act is reverse psychology. We'd think that surely he'd be more agreeable if he had something to hide. But it's like he's hiding in plain sight."
I nodded my head and flashed her a smile.
"And for some reason," she added. "He wants people to think he's a stud with the ladies, but I'm betting that he couldn't get laid if he crawled up a chicken's ass."
"It's like you're reading my mind," I said, chuckling at her conclusion. "What else am I thinking?"
I waggled my eyebrows at her and let my eyes track over her from head to toe and she started laughing.
"I'll tell you what I'm thinking. Either we're going back to Logan's tonight, or we need to start stocking your bathroom with provisions."
"What?" I questioned innocently. "You like spending time in my bathroom?"
"I just like spending time with you," she replied in a suggestive tone.
Then she grabbed a hold of my tie and pulled me down for a kiss that I felt in my toes, amongst other places.
"You keep doing that and we'll add the Bureau stairwell to our repertoire," I said when she finally released me.
"I wonder if they have cameras in here?" she mused.
"You know, that's a very good question," I replied seriously, and she was following my line of thought.
"Maybe we should find out," she said. "Although, we don't want Beemer to get fired. If he's our man, we need him here."
I nodded, considering what our next course of action should be, and then the door suddenly opened behind us.
"Oh, hey, I was just coming down to get you two," Agent Stahl said. "Come on, she's waiting."
So we followed Stahl back through the bullpen to the same conference room.
"Agents Goren and Eames, this is Agent Lacey. She'll be your ASAC for the next case, and then when you're finished, you'll move back under my command, okay?"
And with that simple introduction, she'd established the fact that she apparently owned us and was merely loaning us out to Agent Lacey.
I didn't like the power play move, but it didn't seem to bother Lacey. In fact, she just waved her off and then gestured for me and Eames to sit down. Stahl left the room, and the briefing began.
Five minutes into it, I realized why Stahl had been reticent to elaborate on why we'd been requested for this specific case.
Apparently there was a serial rapist who was targeting women as they left either the Manhattan or the Chelsea Piers health clubs.
All of the victims were thirty-something, petite, blonde women. And maybe Eames was a couple of years older than the average victim, but she didn't look it.
Which is why Lacey wanted to use her as bait.