In From the Cold

Chapter 23

Alex POV


I left Bobby at the federal building, presumably to go to a doctor's appointment, but instead, I met with Maas.

And he had some interesting information.

"We had word of a potential virus in our computer system," he told me.

We were sitting at a table out on the street in Times Square, each of us drinking coffee.

There weren't many people around, but it was a Thursday morning in the middle of October so it wasn't exactly the busy tourist season.

But still…we weren't worried about anyone spotting us.

Who would be looking?

And Maas had worn a slick-material warm-up suit and an odd little hat.

In fact, if anyone did look at us, they'd surely peg him for a made man as opposed to the Deputy Chief of D's.

"A virus?" I questioned.

"Yeah, go figure," he said. "So we had to pull the logs of computer access dating all the way back to February."

"The HR logs?" I asked with a grin, finally catching on to what he was saying.

"That's right. I think you'll find the results rather interesting."

"It was Mullins, wasn't it?"

Maas looked at me over his coffee, apparently deciding whether to just tell me now or to make me wait and read it from the data stick later.

"She accessed Goren's file," he said at last. "From an offsite IP address."

"So she provided the Bureau with personal information on him. That's how they knew about his time at Tates."

"Uh huh," he said with a slow nod.

"Why? Why would they even care?"

"I think that maybe they were just looking for something," he told me. "They wanted to have leverage against him. They wanted to know what kind of man they were dealing with."

"You think they wanted to know if he could be bought," I concluded.

He shrugged and took another sip of his coffee.

"At this point, it's speculation."

"Did you ask her about it?"

"We didn't want to spook her. But I did send Denise over to chat her up."

Moran's secretary.

And possibly an old girlfriend of Bobby's.

I tamped down my jealousy and waited to see what Maas had to say about her.

"She pumped Isabelle for information, trying to goad her into talking about Goren."

"And?"

"And Denise thinks that she doesn't even know who he is. She acted genuinely confused."

"So…offsite. You think that Isabelle's boyfriend at the time used her password to access the NYPD database."

"Isn't that what you suspected?"

"Yeah," I agreed. "Well, at least it sounds like the NYPD is clean on this one. If Isabelle was just a pawn and she didn't know what was happening…"

He nodded his agreement and just stared at me for a minute.

"So how are you holding up?"

"Me? I'm fine."

"They've been working you two to death, haven't they?"

"Maybe they just want to keep us busy. Then we won't have any free time to investigate our real purpose for being there."

"Well, you know the lengths that they're willing to go to," he reminded me. "I don't have to tell you to watch your back."

"Goren does that," I said firmly.

"I'm betting he does," he replied vaguely. "How'd your last case go? Where were you, White Plains?"

"Oh, yeah. Um…it was fine," I answered, suddenly flustered at the mention of that case and flooded by the memories of what we'd done after that case…

"You two are racking up the busts. The Bureau might not want to let you go when this is all over."

"I can't imagine they'll have much say in the matter."

"It might be easier on you."

I stared at him hard, unsure exactly what he was trying to tell me.

"Because…"

"I'm just saying. It might be something to consider."

"Are you saying that Moran doesn't want us back in Major Case?"

"No, of course not."

"Then what? Just say it."

"No, I don't think so," he said, getting up from the table. "Some things are better left unsaid."

"What…"

And then I had it.

He did know about us. And he was telling me that we had to keep it quiet.

Well, tell me something I don't know, I thought.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said firmly. I got up from the table, too and turned to toss my cup in the trash.

"We're doing a job," I continued. "That's all. And when we finish this one, we want to go back to the department and start doing that one again. And if you or Moran have some kind of problem with that because of some ill-conceived notion of…"

"There's no problem, Agent Eames. I didn't mean to suggest that there was. I was merely pointing out your options."

And me getting hot under the collar was proving exactly why it might be necessary for him to show me those options.

Way to play it cool, Alex.

"I'm sorry," I said quickly. "It's just…this thing has lasted longer than either of us expected."

"I understand. No need to apologize."

"Thanks for meeting me on short notice. I'd better get back to the office. I'll call you tonight to set up the next meeting."

I turned to leave, but he got my attention again.

"Hey, I'm not one to spread gossip, but did you know that the captain over in the 6-8 lives with one of her detectives?"

"What? No, I had no idea."

"Exactly."

He left me on that remark and I got his message loud and clear.

Without a doubt, he knew about us.

And we could come back to the department and continue on as we had been as long as we kept our mouths shut.

Or we could stay at the Bureau and not have to hide our relationship.

I went back to the federal building and sought out Bobby.

He was back in our conference room, but when I sat down next to him, I could smell him.

"Oh for the love of God, did she actually spray it on you? Or did she just rub up against you enough to transfer it onto your suit?"

And yeah, okay, so my conversation with Maas had put me in a bad mood.

It probably shouldn't have.

He seemed like he was being extremely supportive.

And I don't know whether Moran knew about me and Bobby or not, but it didn't seem like it was going to matter.

As long as I didn't throw Bobby down on a desk in the middle of a squad room, then we'd probably be okay.

Not only that, but Maas had offered up confirmation of our suspicions about Mullins.

So now we just needed to figure out who she'd been seeing at the time.

Which meant that we were closing in on someone.

So I should be in a good mood.

Except that Maas had brought up Denise, which was a sore subject for me, and now Bobby was reeking of perfume.

Have I mentioned my new-found propensity for jealousy?

"Yeah, she does lay it on a little thick, doesn't she?" he said as he stood up to remove his jacket. He tossed it over the back of a chair that was on the other side of the room and then came back to the table.

"So did she provide you with any information? Because that is what you went there for."

"Yeah, I know that," he said, finally catching onto my irritation. "Do you know that?"

"What did you get?" I asked, ignoring his question.

"She dazzled me with her ability to hack any system. Payroll. Personnel. Whatever. All without being detected."

"I'm sure you were appropriately impressed. Did you get anything we can use?"

"Uh uh," he said. "First tell me what's going on. What happened with Maas?"

"What, I'm going to cough up my information first just because you tell me to? I don't think so, Bobby. If you want someone you can boss around, maybe you should go back to the dazzling Dreama."

I got up and started walking around the room.

This was one of those times where I knew I was in a bad mood, and I knew that I was taking it out on him for no reason and yet I couldn't seem to stop myself.

"Alex, what's going on?"

He got up and followed me around the table. I knew that he didn't want to touch me while we were at work, but his concern overrode his sense of professionalism. He reached out and lightly ran his fingers along my arm until I forced myself to bring my eyes to his.

"Bobby," I said on a frustrated sigh. "I'm sorry."

"What happened with Maas?"

"Nothing. I mean, it was fine. He found out that Mullins accessed your file, only he doesn't think that she knows you. And it didn't happen in the building, so the theory is that someone was chatting her up and then met with her outside of work and convinced her to let them use her password."

"That's good news."

"Yes."

"Then…"

"Maas used Denise to talk to Isabelle."

"Okay…"

"As in, Denise your ex-girlfriend. And then I come in here and you're smelling like the Mustang Ranch, and…"

I blew out a frustrated breath and ran my hand through my hair.

I was being absolutely ridiculous.

"Hey," he said softly, settling his hands on my waist. "First off, I'm sorry about the perfume. She had apparently just put it on before I got there, and I'm sure that it was for my benefit, but trust me when I tell you that I didn't come into contact with her. And Denise…"

"Bobby, you don't have to explain. I don't know why it struck me wrong. It certainly isn't your fault that Maas used Denise to obtain information."

"Alex, she's not an ex-girlfriend. She asked me out a couple of times but I never went."

"Yeah, but see, even if you had, I wouldn't have any right to get mad about that."

"Then what is it?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "Maybe…see, Maas said that maybe we should consider staying with the Bureau."

"He doesn't want us back?"

"That's what I said," I replied, now finally able to smile. "And he was doing some kind of double talk, saying things without really saying them, but I think the gist of it is that if we stay here, we're out of the closet. If we go back there, then we have to be discreet."

"Discreet, but not nothing," he clarified. "I mean, he didn't say that we couldn't be partners if we're dating, right?"

"He pretty much said that he doesn't want to know."

"And that's what's bothering you," he stated. He moved his hand up to rest against the side of my neck, and I knew it would only be another minute before he slid his fingers into my hair. "Because right now, for the most part, we're able to just be us. If we go back there, it'll feel like we're going back to how we were before."

Sometimes it irritates me when he knows what I'm thinking before I do, but not this time.

This time, it just made me love him even more.

"Yeah," I agreed. "And I don't want it to be like before."

"Only at work," he reminded me, leaning down close so that his lips were right next to my ear. It was our habit, after living so long with bugs, and it was another example of something that I didn't want to change. "After work, we'll still be together, just like we are now. Only with no one watching."

And just like that, he eradicated my fears.

I should've known it was something more deep-seated than just simple jealousy.

"That's true," I agreed.

"Except we won't be partners anyway. Because you'll be my boss," he added with a grin.

"I don't know about that, Bobby."

"You promised. If Moran offers it…"

"I don't know if he will. Although Maas did mention something about a captain over at the 6-8."

"What about him?"

"Her. Apparently she lives with one of her detectives."

"I didn't know that."

"That was his point."

"Ah, well, see? We have his blessing."

I took one more moment to enjoy our closeness, and then I took a step back from him. Together we went around the table and sat back down.

"Okay, so tell me what you got from Hooker."

"Well, I could only toss a couple of names at her because I didn't want to look like I was digging, but since she and I were talking about Banta, seeing as how he introduced us, she pulled up his file."

"And?"

"He pays big bucks for his apartment. But do you want to know he affords it?"

"Since you're not more excited, I'm guessing that you're not going to say from regular cash deposits put into an offshore account," I said with a smirk.

"Hardly. More like from regular deposits made from his ex-wife."

"He was married?"

"Uh huh. And she was loaded. So he gets palimony."

"You have got to be kidding me."

"I'm not. So the ex pays for his pad, which explains that away, but guess what else?"

"I'm all ears."

"Not from where I'm sitting," he quipped as his eyes raked over me and then came back up to meet mine. I chuckled at him and then attempted to look stern.

"Tell me," I said, although I couldn't keep from smiling.

How did he always manage to make me feel so good?

We were knee-deep in this bee hive of an investigation and yet one little suggestive comment from him had me ready to jump him.

This was why colleagues shouldn't date, I thought.

Although maybe it was why they should.

The job was serious enough without getting bogged down by depression.

"He's made two trips to Africa within the past three years."

"Under the guise of what?"

"He stated business on his travel papers, but the Bureau didn't send him."

"So business for whom?" I asked rhetorically.

"Exactly. I think it's time that you and I had us a chat with Agent Banta."


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