Murder By Design

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Chapter 15

Supervisory Special Agent Robert Leone didn’t even flinch when the heavy oak door of his office slammed against the wall.

“So I’m assuming that you storming in here means that you’ve met your new partner.” he said dryly. “I thought that he was nice, at least. A little nervous, but I just attributed that to it being his first day and all.”

“Why. Is he. Here?” River ground out.

“Well I’d assume that he is here for the same reason that the rest of us are - to uphold democracy.”

He looked up from his paperwork just in time to catch his adopted daughter rolling her eyes at him. “That is so not what I meant, and you know it.” she said, sounding more like a whiny teenager in that moment than a highly trained government agent. “Why has he been assigned to be my partner?” she said, practically spitting out the last word as if it were poisonous.

“Because,” Leone explained. “As good as you are at solving cases, we both know that when it comes to people, your skills are…” he hesitated, trying to find a way to say what he meant without being as blunt as he could be.

“Not the best?” River suggested, but Leone shook his head, deciding to just be blunt and get it out of the way.


“So you gave me a partner -” River said, grinding the word out. “Because you thought that I needed to learn how to play nice?”

“Technically, I didn’t assign him to you.” Leone corrected. “After all, you’ve been through - what, seven partners? - since joining the Bureau?”

“Eight.” she responded absentmindedly, having spotted the files sitting on her father’s desk and going through them. “You’re missing an important detail about this one.” she remarked, going to show him what she was talking about before he grabbed the files out of her hands.

“Eight? Since when is it eight?” Leone asked incredulously.

“I think you’re forgetting Ridd.” she told him, and he nodded. Joel Rudd was a rather... cocky... agent who had thought that it would be funny to try and grope his partner during training.

He hadn’t thought it was funny after River ended up putting him in the hospital for it. The man - if he could even be called that - had had two broken ribs, a concussion, and several fractured bones by the time that someone managed to pull River off of him.

“Right.” he said dryly. “How could I have forgotten what you did to him?”

River put her hands up defensively. “It’s his own fault.” she said. “He shouldn’t have started groping me.”

Leone sighed, feeling a headache coming on as he switched back to the original topic of conversation. “Just… give him a chance, Agent.” he said, slipping back into what his wife always called his “special agent” voice.

“Yes sir.” the younger Leone said stiffly, recognizing his switch from being her father to being her boss.

She left the office, only mildly surprised to see that Russo had followed her there. River merely shot him a glare as she stormed past, choosing to otherwise ignore him.

She was so furious about the entire situation, that it took her longer than she would ever admit to notice that he was following after her.

“So I know that we got off to a bad start.” he said, and River could barely keep from rolling her eyes at him. “But I’m willing to start over if you are.”

That at least got her to stop trying to get away and turn to look at him, and Russo took a moment to notice the irony that the senior agent in the partnership was actually the younger agent.

“Right, let’s just get this straight, okay?” she said, giving him a sweet smile that might have turned his head if she was his type. Or if he couldn’t read body language and facial expressions as well as he could - and the truth was clearly written there. The slight flare of her nostrils and the tightening around her eyes told him that she was really angry, and just good at hiding it. But the stiffness in her limbs and her clenched fists told him that that anger wouldn’t remain hidden much longer, and so he braced himself for what was about to come.

“I’m only working with you - hell, I’m only talking to you - because I’m being forced to. I don’t like you, and I don’t want to work with you. I work alone.” she moved closer and closer to him with every word, until she ended up almost literally under his nose.

Russo put his hands up in deference - he had a feeling that he would be doing that a lot while working with her - and took a step back.

“I got it.” he said carefully. “No need to go all G.I. Jane on me again, I think I’ve got the idea.”

She nodded, before turning to press the button for the elevator.

“But unfortunately for the both of us, we’re stuck working together for now.” He said, leaning against the elevator doors. “So if you wouldn’t mind pretending not to hate the very fact that I exist for at least a while, that would be great.”

River didn’t even bother to give him an answer - so of course he had to say something.

“Well you haven’t bitten my head off yet, so I guess that counts as progress.” he said nervously - just in time for the elevator doors to open up behind him, sending him crashing to the floor.

River eyed him with barely concealed disdain. “Yeah, that’s progress all right.” she said dryly as she stepped over him to get into the elevator. She pushed the button to go to the right floor, and smirked slightly as Russo had to quickly scoot backwards to keep his limbs from getting caught in the doors.

“Seriously?” he asked, already at the end of his patience. “What the hell was that for?”

“Shut up before I get you a muzzle.” was all that SA Leone would say in reply.

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