In From the Cold

Chapter 21

Alex POV


After leaving Stahl, Bobby and I went to Lacey's office where she pounced on us immediately.

"We don't have a lot of time to dick around with briefings," she told us in her no-nonsense manner. "The locals think they know what floats this guy's boat. And you can see why I needed you two. I mean, there aren't too many agents who would be willing to go that extra mile for a bust."

"Extra mile?" I questioned as she bustled around her desk, gathering files and shoving them into her briefcase.

"You know, the down on the knees thing."

I glanced at Bobby and he raised his eyebrows at me but just shrugged.

"Down on the knees?" I asked cautiously.

She stopped and looked at us, expelling a heavy sigh.

"Stahl didn't tell you?"

"No. She mentioned something about prostitutes and johns in White Plains. She said you'd fill us in on the rest."

"She is such a chicken shit," she muttered with a shake of her head. "Sorry. I thought she was going to give you details."

"No," I said firmly. "She didn't. So will you?"

"Apparently, our guy gets off on watching the hookers perform oral sex. While on their knees. After the show, he storms the room, shoots the man and then forces the woman to give an encore performance at gunpoint."

It's not often that I'm rendered speechless, but at the moment, all words were escaping me.

"So the plan is…" Bobby said hesitantly.

I was sure that he didn't much care for the scenario either. He'd been kidding when he joked about having his pants around his ankles, but apparently it was going to be pretty accurate.

"You'll have a gun in your pocket," she told him. "The two of you will go into the room, around to the far side of the bed where you won't be completely visible. Goren, you'll drop your pants while Eames, you get down on your knees in front of him. So you can see why I was having trouble drafting people for this one, right?"

"Yeah," I agreed with a nod.

"Anyway," she continued with a dismissive wave of her hand. "You'll be able to grab onto the gun – and yeah, I know. Insert your own joke here, right?"

She laughed at herself, but Bobby and I just stood there and looked at her. I was trying to picture this scenario that she was describing. And this was going to be on surveillance footage.

"So, you grab his service weapon," Lacey continued. "And you keep it in your hand, below the height of the bed. Do your performance, yadda, yadda, yadda, and then hopefully our guy will come in and aim for Goren, at which point you, Eames, will take him out. And of course, there will be back-up in place, but we can't be too close because we don't want to spook the guy. Okay, so we're good to go?"

"Um…"

"Agent Eames?"

Agent McHale was sticking her head in the doorway of Lacey's office.

"Yes?"

"SAC Casteel needs to see you right away."

"Are you sure?" I asked her, because by now I'd had enough of people using his name as a ploy.

"I just left his office. He told me to come down and find you."

"Go, Eames," Lacey said. "I'll finish bringing Goren up to speed and we'll meet you in the parking garage. I want to get out of here in thirty minutes."

I caught Bobby's eye briefly, expressing my concern at both the unexpected summons to Casteel's office and our latest assignment.

We held each other's eye for a minute.

Take the elevator, his look said.

"How can we be sure that he'll be watching us?" Bobby was asking Lacey as I left. "We could go through this scenario every night for a year and not have him stumble across us."

Very good question, I thought as I headed down the hall.

And I didn't need him to tell me not to take the stairs, although I did appreciate his concern.

I went to the SAC's office and knocked on the door. To my surprise, it was opened by Agent Banta.

"Agent Eames," Casteel said from his position behind his desk. "Come in."

"I'm…um…Agent McHale said that you wanted to speak with me."

I walked fully into the office and Banta closed the door behind me. Rivas was seated along the far wall, and Bourque and Workman were sitting in chairs across from Casteel.

"I do," Casteel confirmed sharply. "And what I'd like to know is where you were last night between the hours of six and nine."

"I wasn't on duty," I said with a growing feeling of unease.

"I am aware of that."

"So I'm not sure how it's any of the Bureau's business," I stated, doing my best to maintain a respectful attitude.

What in the hell was going on here?

I felt like I was being ambushed and yet I had no idea why.

"Surely by now you've heard about Agent Beemer's murder."

Oh my God.

"Yes sir."

"Good. So I'm going to ask you again. Where were you last night?"

"You think that it was me?" I asked him incredulously. "Well, that's just crazy. Why in the world would I want to kill him?"

And yeah, okay, I could think of a couple of reasons, but still…

"We have a witness who identified the killer as someone five-six or less."

"So I'm a suspect because I'm short?"

"You're a suspect because of an incident that occurred between you and the victim earlier in the day yesterday. In the stairwell. It has been suggested that you displayed obvious hostility. Aside from that, you and Agent Beemer have a history together, so it stands to reason…"

"A history together?"

"He told me about it," Banta said with a nod.

"Told you about what?" I asked.

This whole thing was getting ridiculous.

"Agent Eames," Casteel said sharply. "Do you or do you not have an alibi for last night?"

"Yes," I replied. "I do."

I suddenly loved Moran more than I ever thought possible.

Because I'd thought that it had been silly and paranoid for him to even consider it, but apparently he'd been right.

"Goren and I had dinner in Manhattan."

"Dinner," Banta said cynically. "What time? I don't suppose that you have a receipt?"

"We finished up around eight," I told him. "And I'm sure that I do have the receipt, yes."

Because that's what Moran had given to Bobby.

"Well?"

"Not on me," I told him crossly. "But I'm sure it's in my purse. I'll get it."

Casteel nodded amenably while Banta continued to glare at me.

"So what happened in the stairwell?" Rivas asked. I'd almost forgotten that others were in the room, but I definitely didn't like feeling like I was in the hot seat.

And I had to wonder where this was coming from.

Was it someone in this room who had killed Beemer? Is that why they were trying to cast the blame onto me?

Or were they following real leads?

Because objectively, I guess I could understand why they had to ask me about it.

We did have an altercation, and the idea that the shooter was short combined with that knowledge…well, I could understand the questions.

I didn't like them, but…

"Did the witness say that it was a woman?" I asked them suddenly.

"She couldn't tell."

"She couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman?"

"The shooter was dressed in loose, dark clothing and wore a baseball cap. So it could've been a man," Casteel told me.

"Or it could've been a woman with her hair tucked under the cap," Banta added.

"Do you want to check me for GSR?" I asked him hotly. "I'd be more than happy to submit to a test."

"That won't be necessary," Casteel assured me, although it looked as though Banta was going to take me up on it.

Which meant what?

He either didn't know the identity of the killer, or he was going to attempt to fabricate the lab results.

I was going in circles here.

"Agent Eames, what happened in the stairwell?"

I expelled an annoyed breath and forced myself not to roll my eyes.

"Agent Beemer followed me into the stairwell. After the incident last summer, I wasn't going to take any chances with him, so I pushed him against the wall and asked him why he was following me."

I had to be mostly honest because I wasn't sure how much they knew. No one had specifically mentioned security footage, but yet they knew about the incident.

Had Banta been listening?

We'd spoken quietly so I couldn't imagine that he would've heard anything.

"And what did he say?"

"That he wanted to apologize. He didn't want there to be continued tension between us."

"That's it?"

"That's it. He said that sometime he'd like to get together with me and Goren. You know, to make up for how he treated us in the beginning."

"So he wasn't hitting on you?" Banta asked. "He wasn't trying to rekindle…"

"Rekindle?" I interrupted. "There's nothing to…what did he tell you?"

"Beemer said that the two of you had a relationship before you got involved with Goren."

My shock rendered me speechless for the second time today, but it turned out to be a good thing. The denial that I wanted to shout as loudly as possible never came out.

Instead, I took a moment to consider that.

Why would Beemer say that?

Was it because someone didn't trust me, and he was trying to cover for me? Was he truly on the right side?

If he'd said it for a reason, and I debunked his claim, then would that make the real mole once again suspicious that I was hunting him?

I needed to get out of this office.

I needed a stiff drink.

And I needed Bobby.

We had some thinking to do about this latest turn of events.

"Sir, am I excused?" I asked Casteel. "Agent Lacey is waiting for me so that we can go up to White Plains. I will be sure to get you my dinner receipt from last night to confirm my alibi. As far as my relationship with Beemer prior to my employment with the FBI, I can't see how that's relevant."

Casteel stared at me for a minute, but then gave me a sharp nod, so I left his office without another word to anyone and met Bobby in the parking garage. Agents Lacey and McHale were with him.

"McHale's going to work this one with us," Lacey said, as though I expected an explanation.

"Okay," I replied. I liked McHale. She was very competent and professional.

"Yeah, I didn't want you to worry about…you know, who might be watching the surveillance."

Ah…right. I'd forgotten about that.

I was going to get to simulate giving oral sex.

"I appreciate that," I told her sincerely.

"What happened?" Bobby asked me quietly as Lacey tossed our duffle bags into the back of the SUV.

"They accused me of killing Beemer," I told him.

"They what?"

"I know," I agreed. "I'm glad Moran gave us his dinner receipt. It was smart of him to pay in cash. Although if anyone goes up there to interview the wait staff…"

"They won't go that far."

"I didn't think they'd go this far. They knew that I ran into Beemer in the stairwell. And for some reason, Beemer told Banta that he'd had a relationship with me."

"Are you two ready?" Lacey asked, interrupting any further speculation.

Bobby and I got into the back seat for the drive to White Plains.

"So how will we know that he'll come after us?" I asked aloud once we were on the road. "And how will we know which motel? Hasn't he killed in several different locations?"

"The locals haven't figured out his routine yet," Lacey answered. "That's our job. And once we do, you two can lure him in and do your thing."

Lacey and McHale started talking amongst themselves, so I leaned a little closer to Bobby and said, "Supposedly, Beemer's shooter is short. Around five-six, maybe less."

"I honestly didn't notice that, but I only caught a glimpse of him. Although Maas didn't say anything about that either," he replied. "We should ask him."

"You think they're making it up?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "But they wanted to put the heat on you for some reason. I mean, they could've called me in but they didn't."

I nodded slowly as I tried to sort through the latest bevy of evidence.

"And why would Beemer mention a relationship?" Bobby asked. "You hate him. Everyone at the Bureau knows that."

"Which maybe lends itself to perpetuate the lie," I suggested. "Why would I hate him so much unless it was personal?"

"So we just need to know why he lied. Was it just to make himself look like a stud? Or was it to protect you?"

"You know, Banta was in Casteel's office. The whole team was there with the exception of Stahl and McHale."

"Another good question. Were the women absent intentionally? Or was it because McHale was ready to start this case with us and Stahl is benched?"

"The more we learn, the more questions we have," I muttered. "Maas said we'd be back by Christmas. I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever get back."


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