Murder By Design

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Chapter 14

Seventeen years later...

Agent Scott Russo was nervous. Fresh out of the FBI Academy, he had received his assignment only a few weeks ago. He had been pleasantly surprised to learn that he would be going to the FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C., and had packed his bags, ready to move out of Quantico. It had taken longer than he expected to get all of his things together, but he had finally finished - at least with moving boxes in. The rest of his new apartment was still far from ready.

He looked up at the tan building, and could feel his heart in his throat. This was what he had been working towards for his entire life. He had finally made it.

The rather pretty brunette at the front desk - whose name tag had read Deborah (“Call me Debbie”), and who had been quick to give him her number - had given him directions to get to S.S.A. R. Leone’s office. According to the paperwork, that was who his new partner was going to be.

He finally reached the right office door after searching for what felt like several hours. He hesitated for a moment, steeling his nerves, before knocking on the door.

“Come in.” a tired voice told him.

Russo pushed the thick oak door open and stepped inside the office.

It was sparsely decorated, with the big cherrywood desk being the main focus of the room. Seated behind the desk was an older man, who looked to be in his mid-sixties. His greying brown hair was in a buzz cut, and he wore a high quality dark blue suit.

“Agent Leone?” Russo asked, and the man looked up.

“Yes?” he snapped. “What is it?”

“Uh.. Hi.” Russo said lamely. “I was told to report here…?” Russo trailed off for a moment, hoping that he wouldn’t have to keep explaining, but started up again when he saw nothing but confusion on the older man’s face. “I’m SA Scott Russo… your new partner?”

Leone continued to look at him, completely baffled. “What?” he asked, then noticed the papers that Russo was still clutching onto. “Let me see those.”

Russo handed over the paperwork, unsure as to what exactly was going on. Hadn’t his partner been told that he was coming?

Then the older man’s eyes widened, and he handed Russo the papers back. Meanwhile, Russo was trying to read the look on SSA Leone’s face. He could have sworn that it was… pity.

“Sorry, kid.” Leone said. “But it’s not me that you’re working with. It’s my daughter.”

“Your… daughter?” Russo asked, confused, and in all honesty, slightly shocked. He wasn’t sure why everyone had been so sure that he would be working with the elder Leone. Hell, no one had ever even mentioned that there were two Leones in the Bureau.

“Okay,” Russo said, still processing the turn of events. “Any idea where I can find her?”

SSA Robert Leone leaned back in his chair, shaking his head. “Sorry.” he said, although there was a note in his voice that said he really wasn’t. “Ask around.”

Russo nodded his thanks before pausing in the doorway.

“Is there any advice that you can give me, sir?” he asked nervously. “I mean, everyone that I asked automatically assumed that I would be working with you, I’m guessing that there’s a reason…”

The older agent smirked for a moment, but didn’t elaborate at all. “There’s not much that you shouldn’t be able to figure out yourself, but I will give you some advice so that you don’t end up dying too soon.”

Russo would have said something in response to that, if the older agent hadn’t continued speaking. “First off, don’t let appearances fool you. Special Agent Leone is a good, capable, agent despite what she may look like.” That confused Russo a bit, but he didn’t comment on it. “And second, don’t even attempt to sneak up on her.”

Russo nodded and smiled at SSA Leone. “Thank you, sir, for the advice.” he said, but Leone was already buried in paperwork again.

He found her on the firing range. The only one down there, she was wearing the standard issue glasses and earplugs that were necessary to even be holding your gun on the range, so she wouldn’t be able to hear him coming.

Even if she hadn’t had the earplugs in, Russo wasn’t sure that she would have heard him coming anyways - she seemed to be in a nearly trance-like state. She would fire until her gun was empty - thirteen rounds each time, meaning that she carried the Glock 23 instead of the 22 - then quickly reloading and starting over again.

Russo took a moment to look over his new partner, hoping to be able to figure out at least a bit about her before they actually started working together. He started by looking her over from head to toe, like he did with most of the women he met. Sure, he had been called a pig by more than a few women because of it, but there was a reason behind his so-called “elevator eyes”. He had learned over the years that even the most miniscule detail of a person’s clothes could tell a lot about them, especially if that person was a female, since they tended to be far more expressive in their clothing than men. They provided a basic summary of how a person meant to portray themselves. And, if you knew what you were looking for, as well as how to interpret what you found, they could tell you a bit about what the person might not want you knowing.

Special Agent River Leone wore what was basically the standard government employee uniform - a dark suit, dress shirt, and shoes. Unlike most of the women in the Bureau, at least of the ones that Russo had seen so far, the female Leone appeared to dress for functionality instead of style. Granted, the only female agents that he had seen so far were those with cushy desk jobs, so he didn’t have much room to judge. But still, her suit had a looser fit than those of the secretaries that he had met, although it still fit her nicely. He took a moment to appreciate just how nicely the pants fit her, before continuing in his visual scan. High heels had been swapped out for flats, although as Russo got closer he could see that even those deceived appearances, and were really sneakers that were made to look like dress shoes.

All in all, she was very well put together, he had to admit - at least as far as appearances were concerned. Her suit looked to be of a high quality, so she had put some effort into looking professional, but it wasn’t too expensive-looking, so she didn’t care all that much about looking impressive. That made sense, considering their profession. The suit jacket was nowhere in sight, although Russo did remember seeing one over where the gear was stored, so he assumed that that was hers. She had only taken off the jacket when she was alone, he noted, he could think of two reasons why. Either she was hot - as in overheated, because she was clearly very good-looking - or she was more comfortable when she was alone. The latter made more sense, Russo decided. People tended to remove layers only when they were comfortable, hence the phrase “take off your coat and stay awhile”.

Finally, Russo couldn’t put it off any longer. But, he decided, if he had to go up and introduce himself to his new partner, he might as well break the ice and have a little fun while he did so. So he crossed the room, moving as stealthily as possible until he was standing directly behind her. He timed his movements for when she was firing, so that in case she could hear anything through those earplugs, she wouldn’t be able to hear him anyways. He waited until she stopped shooting for a moment to reload her gun, and then tapped her on the shoulder as soon as she had removed the magazine.

Her response was not at all what he had been expecting. Although, if he had bothered to remember the advice that SSA Leone had given him, he might have been a bit more prepared. As soon as his hand touched her shoulder, she tensed under him, and her right hand - which had been holding her gun only moments ago - clamped down on his. That was the exact moment when Russo remembered the warning that the senior Leone had given him.

Well, no, that was a lie. The exact moment was when Russo found himself laying flat on his back with the wind knocked out of him after being thrown in a perfectly executed judo flip. He did have to admit, though, that this gave him the perfect view to examine his new partner.

Piercing green eyes stared down at him, and her glare was sharp enough that it felt more like he was literally being pierced. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail that hung low enough to just hit her shoulder, and several pieces had fallen out of it. She was a very attractive woman, Russo decided, but decided not to think on it any longer and instead decided to focus on getting away from the very angry woman who was now holding her gun to his head.

“What the hell?” Special Agent River Leone said, keeping the gun held to his head even as her expression changed from murderous to just plain livid. “Didn’t anyone warn you to not sneak up on someone when they’re shooting?” The ‘especially me’ was left unsaid, although it was so clearly implied that it might as well have been.

“...It slipped my mind…” Russo wheezed, trying to retrieve some of the air that had been forced out of his lungs by the unexpected attack. “Look… D’you mind… helping me up?”

She rolled her eyes, but did as he asked.

“Who the hell are you?” she asked, getting right to the point.

He tried to appear at least slightly dignified after having been thrown to the floor by an opponent about half his size. After taking a moment to straighten out his clothing, he introduced himself.

“Special Agent Scott Russo.” he said, holding out a hand for her to shake. She didn’t take it. “I’m your new partner.”

River just stared at him for a moment, and he was seriously contemplating making sure that he hadn’t accidentally spilled something on his shirt when she spoke.

“What did you just say?” her voice was level, and she appeared to be utterly calm, but there was something about the way that she was glaring at him that made him squirm. The petite blonde was strangely intimidating, although her intimidation factor was probably being helped by the fact that she had flipped him over her shoulder just minutes before.

“I’m your new partner…” Russo repeated, unsure now, but also irritated. He had thought that someone would have had the decency to at least let his new partner know that he was coming.

“No you’re not.” she argued as she reassembled her gun. “I don’t have a partner.”

Russo was already starting to get tired of dealing with her, and they had barely even met. “Well you might not have had one before, but you obviously do now. Otherwise I wouldn’t be down here telling you this.” He finished stiffly, holding out his paperwork for her to look at.

She eyed the papers suspiciously for a moment, as if she half expected them to burst into flames at any time, before snatching them out of his hands. She scanned over them quickly, her expression growing more and more disbelieving the further she got.

Once she finished reading them, she shoved the papers back at Russo, only stopping to grab her gun before she stormed off of the range.

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