I knew it.
I knew that little prick Beemer was behind this.
But before I could gloat, Bobby nudged me off to the side in hallway.
"Don't jump to conclusions," he said. "It may just be his way of taking a shot at us. He knows that we don't want to go."
"But it could mean that he wants to get rid of us for four months."
"It could. Or it could be payback for you turning him into a gelding. It doesn't change things. Not much, anyway."
I took a moment to force myself into being objective.
He had a point.
Beemer hated us, or me at least, so it could just be his passive-aggressive way of getting revenge.
"You're right," I conceded.
"I'm not trying to be right," he said gently. "I just don't want us to get too focused on one person while the real culprit stays under the radar."
"I know," I replied.
We started walking again, heading for the stairwell.
"So," I continued. "Are you ready to proceed with Operation Gigolo?"
Bobby nearly choked on a laugh, and then he shook his head.
"Uh uh. We're not calling it that," he argued with a grin. "That would imply that there will be some sort of inappropriate touching going on, and believe me, there will be none of that."
"How do you know?" I asked as we went down the stairs to the fourth floor. "She could turn out to be the girl of your dreams."
"That's impossible. I already have the girl of my dreams."
"See? You are a smooth talker," I replied casually, even though his words had sparked a fluttering feeling in my stomach. "You'll do just fine with Agent Cyber Crimes."
"No, see that was just honesty," he said, leaning so close to me that I could smell his cologne. It was a heady scent that I'd been enjoying for years, and it was even better now that I knew I could bury my face against his chest and smell him any time I wanted to. Well, almost any time. I'd probably need to refrain from doing that when we were meeting with Maas or Moran. "For this little adventure, I'm going to have to lie my ass off."
"You'll be fine," I assured him.
"And what about you? How are you going to wheedle information out of Banta?" he asked me as he reached past me and opened up the door to let us out onto the fourth floor.
"I'm going to have to play that one by ear," I admitted. "It'll depend on his true motive for trying to provide you with a hook-up."
"Just make sure that you behave yourself," he teased.
It was Agent Lacey, with whom we'd worked on that rapist case.
"SAC Casteel just called down," she continued. "He said that he needs to speak with you in his office."
"I just came from there," I replied, glancing at Bobby in confusion. He shrugged and looked slightly concerned.
"I'm just the messenger," Lacey said, and then she continued down the hall to a conference room. She paused at the door and looked back at us. "Oh, and you two are mine for the next case. Come on, Goren. I'll get started briefing you while Eames goes upstairs."
"What am I going to do if he's made arrangements to send me to Quantico?" I muttered after Lacey went into the conference room.
"If that's it, just go along with it for now," he said. "We'll come up with a family emergency or something if we need to."
"Okay," I said with a nod. That was a good plan. "Okay, I'll be right back."
So I left Bobby on the fourth floor and slipped back into the stairwell to go up to Casteel's fifth floor office.
My mind considered and rejected possible reasons for this encore meeting and then suddenly, I had it.
And I'd come up with it just in time.
I rounded the corner at the mid-floor landing and whirled around to find Beemer on my heels.
The man was quiet as a damn mouse, but fortunately, I was ready for him this time.
This time, I'd taken him by surprise.
I brought my forearm up to his throat, and propelled him backwards until he was against the wall.
"I thought we'd try it like this for a change," I said to him, pushing my weight against him and effectively cutting off his windpipe. "Weren't you ordered to stay away from me?"
"Hang on," he rasped out. "I wasn't…I'm not…"
"You weren't what? Going to cop another cheap feel? What?"
And yeah, okay, so maybe I was pushing a little too hard against his throat.
But my adrenaline was reaching astronomical levels and honestly, I'd had all I was going to take from this guy.
But still…it wouldn't do me any good to kill him. Yet. I needed to hear what he had to say.
"I know what you two are doing," he said when I relaxed my hold just a little bit. "You think it's me, don't you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Yes you do," he insisted. "And I can help you, but it's not safe for you to stay here."
"Yeah, I know," I retorted. "I seemed to have a propensity for getting jumped in the stairwell."
"Eames, listen to me," he said firmly. "I know that you have no reason to trust me."
"You're damn right I don't! You've harassed me from day one!"
We heard a door open on an upper floor and I released my hold on him and took two steps back, but I continued to glare at him as we heard the footsteps approaching.
"You set it up for me to be in here again, didn't you? Do I even need to bother going to see Casteel?"
And to my surprise, he reached into his pocket.
And since I didn't trust him for a second, I quickly launched myself at his arm, grabbing onto it with both hands and forcing him to keep his hand in his pocket. I had no idea what kind of weapon he might have in there.
"You're going to make a scene," he whispered harshly. "I don't want to be seen in here with you."
"You came to me, remember?"
The footsteps now sounded like they were directly above us. We probably only had a few more seconds before someone would come into view.
"You and Goren. Meet me and make sure that you're not followed," he said.
He shifted to the side to get away from my grasp and I let him go.
Surely he wouldn't shoot me in front of the pending witness.
And of course, he didn't. Instead, he pulled out a piece of paper and shoved it into my hand before moving past me and going down the stairs. I stood on the landing for another split second.
"Oh, Agent Eames. I haven't seen you in awhile."
It was Banta.
How convenient that I managed to run into both of our leading suspects within a five-second span in the same deserted stairwell.
That caused me to wonder about the possibility of there being more than one mole.
Could there be two agents working together?
Weapons trafficking was an extremely lucrative business and surely those involved could afford to buy off any number of members of law enforcement.
But then why hadn't we found any kind of money trail?
"Agent Eames?" he asked hesitantly, since I'd just continued to stand there without responding to his greeting. I closed my hand tightly around the slip of paper that Beemer had given me, and then casually stuck my hand in my pocket.
"Sorry," I said apologetically. "My mind was somewhere else."
"Not a problem. Are you going down?" he asked, offering to allow me to go in front of him.
Was I? Surely since I'd run into Beemer, that meant that the call for me to go to Casteel's office was fake, right?
"Yes," I said. I headed down the stairs and he fell into step beside me.
"So is everything okay? I mean, with you and Agent Goren? You seem a little…I don't know…sad."
"It's fine," I said quickly, and then I regrouped. Because maybe this was my in. So I hesitated before going through the door on the fourth floor and looked up at him shyly. "No, you know what? It's been…I don't know."
I capped off my vague statement with a deep sigh and then I looked at the floor for a minute before glancing back up to find him staring at me intently.
"It's harder than I thought it would be," I said in a conspiratorial voice.
"Working together…living together…I don't know. Sometimes I just feel like maybe I need someone else to talk to. Someone different. You know what I mean?"
I've always hated using my feminine wiles to get my way about something, but never let it be said that I don't know how to get the job done.
I flashed him a cautious smile and then tossed my hair back over my shoulder and tilted my head to one side as I continued to look at him.
"Sure I do," he agreed. He took a step closer to me. "It's always good to spread your wings a little. You know, you don't listen to the same song over and over again, do you?"
And yeah, I knew exactly what he was saying, but…ew. I needed the extra minute to control my gag reflex.
"I'm saying…maybe you just need to change the station. Mix things up."
"Play a different song?"
"I'll keep that in mind," I told him as I reached for the door handle. He put his hand on top of mine so that both of us were gripping the handle.
Only I was trying to turn it and he was trying to hold it still.
"You do that," he said quietly.
I finally won our battle on the door handle and the two of us left the stairwell.
I needed to get away from him as fast as possible, so I made a beeline for the conference room.
I was glad that we'd been assigned to Agent Lacey for the time being because Banta didn't work with her.
And even though I knew that I'd need to cozy up to him again to work him for information, I didn't have to do it right this minute.
I burst into the conference room and found Lacey conducting a presentation of the current case for Bobby and two other agents.
"Goren can get you up to speed after we finish," Lacey said when she saw me. "We need to move on this fairly quickly."
"Yes, ma'am," I answered as I took the seat next to Bobby.
The note from Beemer was burning a hole in my pocket, but I couldn't look at it just yet.
Bobby caught my eye, obviously aware that I was slightly frazzled, but I nodded at him encouragingly and shifted my focus to the power point on the wall.
Twenty minutes later, we were dismissed from the briefing.
"What happened?" Bobby asked me once we were in the hallway. I looked around to make sure that we were truly alone.
"Casteel didn't want me," I told him. "It was another one of Beemer's tricks."
"Okay, that's it," he said quickly, walking away from me toward the bullpen. "I'm done with him."
"Eames, I'm serious. He's taken it too far."
"He wants to meet with us."
"What? When? Why? Did he touch you?"
I smirked at his bevy of questions and pulled the piece of paper out of my pocket.
"No," I said, answering his last question. "I got the drop on him and slammed him into the wall."
"Oh," he replied with a nod. "Okay, good. So what's this?"
It took me a minute to open the paper that had been folded half a dozen times and when I did, it just had a time and an address on it.
Eight-thirty. 2457 Franklin Street Brooklyn.
"He wants us to meet him here," I said as I handed him the paper. "He told me that he knows what we're up to, and that we were wrong about him. He also said to make sure that we're not followed tonight."
"What do you think?"
"I think we call Maas," I said, keeping my voice low. "Because it could be a set-up."
"You think he wants to lure us there to kill us?"
"If he thinks we're getting close to the truth…"
"Let's call Logan, too," he said. "It's not that I don't trust Maas, but…"
"I know. I agree. An extra set of eyes watching our backs can't hurt."
I held his gaze as we both silently thought about the possible outcomes of this covert meeting.
Did Beemer really have information for us?
Was he innocent in all of this?
Or did he know that we were onto him and that it was only a matter of time before we busted this case wide open?
"So he really didn't touch you? Or hurt you?" Bobby asked me as we headed for the small conference room at the end of the hall that served as our office when we were in the building.
Casteel had determined that we weren't around enough to warrant requisitioning actual desks.
And that was fine with me.
I had a desk. It was at 1PP.
"He didn't, unless you count my arm embedded into his throat," I told him. "Trust me, I had the upper hand the entire time."
"I trust you," he agreed quickly. "I just worry."
"Oh, yeah, well, worry about this," I said with a roll of my eyes. "I ran into Banta, too."
I told him about what had happened with the smarmy agent.
"What, is the stairwell the hotspot for clandestine conversations?"
"Apparently. But I managed to convince him that I was spending entirely too much time with you, so I'm betting that he's going to be hitting you up soon for your thing with the cyber woman."
"He compared being with me to listening to the same song?"
"I think he thought he was being poignant," I said with a shrug.
We sat down at the table and pulled out the file that Lacey had given us.
"Too much time with me," he commented quietly. "I guess it wasn't too hard to make up that one, huh?"
"Don't do that," I chastised. And because our chairs were close, I pushed my leg against his. "You're going to be making up stories, too."
"I just want to make sure that you're making it up," he said. "It's not like you've had any time for other friends or family or anything in the past six months. It's just been me."
"Do you see me complaining?"
"You're much too professional for that."
"I'm not going to say that I don't miss my family," I agreed. "But Bobby, six months…six years…sixty years. There's no such thing as too much time with you."
"Are you sure?"
"I love this song," I told him, running my hand over his beard. "It's the only one I ever need to hear again."