*This chapter contains strong language, contentious parenting and finally, Lee gets to be useful.
The light through the blinds made striped patterns against the ceiling. I stared at them as I swallowed and tried to wet my tongue where it had gone dry from panting. I was hot but I didn’t have the energy to push the blankets off my feet or roll away from Elise where she pressed against my side. Skin to skin I could feel too hot and enjoy the heat I was giving off at the same time. Elise was chilled under the spinning ceiling fan and buried her face in my neck, her arm around my waist.
Aren’t you glad you had Friday off? “Glad you got the day off?” I repeated when my tongue didn’t feel pasted to the roof of my mouth.
She murmured something unintelligible against my neck and laughed when she heard herself. Very. As glad as you are that classes are over.
“Almost over. Now they’re getting supervised field time.” I turned my face away from her hair where it made my cheek sweat. Three weeks of field training, what was I thinking?
Heaven help the people of New York. Elise reached behind her and found the blanket. She pulled it over her and covered me up to the waist. “Do you get a break before your next class? I feel like I only get you on the weekends.”
“It was your boss’s idea to give them intensive training. Maybe you could put in a good word, get us a week or two?” I asked, knowing what this was leading up to. It was becoming clear that she didn’t realize how well I could read her when we touched. She thought I didn’t know she’d skirted the same question in her mind for almost two weeks, blocking while she decided how to ask me to move in with her. It wouldn’t be so much of an issue if you had your own place, I reminded myself. Moving in with Carl had been easy and made me feel useful when I’d had nothing to do but clean up the Piken profile while the Feds made deals with him for information on what went on in the labs. I screwed my eyes shut at the thought. I’d heard, through Carl, how the interviews with the test subjects were going. There weren’t many from that lab that would see the outside of Park Slope in their lifetime.
Elise shifted and propped herself up on one elbow. “Do you think that’s how I should be using my new position?” I wouldn’t want the Senator to think I could be bribed. The hand that had been resting on my stomach began moving in a slow circle.
I suddenly felt less tired despite the eight straight days I’d spent going through hostage and jumper scenarios with reluctant federal agents. I slid my hand up her arm and let it rest on her neck where I imagined I could feel her pulse under my palm. I bet you have a few ideas for those bribes. “Shouldn’t you get some perks for being on the Board of Telepathic Law Enforcement Integration?”
“Agency Liaison,” she corrected and leaned in until our noses brushed. Convince me to ask.
I can convince you. I let the anticipation draw out, I liked the way it shivered from her hand into my stomach. In one swift move I flipped her onto her back. She leaked breathless anticipation into me and it mixed with the double jolt in my stomach so I felt lightheaded. I kissed her hard, hand tangled in her hair, feeling prickles of excitement where her nails dug into my back.
The buzz of the phone was just an annoying sound until Elise recognized it. Your phone, she thought as she scraped her teeth over my bottom lip and pulled away.
Damn. It took a supreme effort of will to roll to the other side of the bed and find my pants. I grabbed them by a leg and pulled them onto the bed to get to my cell phone. “Hell.” I couldn’t ignore Jerome Rawls. “Lochlan,” I said and moved my foot away from where it was touched Elise and doubled my frustration.
“We’ve got a training situation. Your group’s up first.” He didn’t sound sorry for calling on my day off, but he wasn’t interested in niceties. Since Andrew’s highly publicized arrest he’d had other things to worry about, like keeping his job.
I buried my face in the blanket and bit off a curse. “They don’t start until tomorrow. I don’t even have their pass grades handed out.” I don’t care what they say, I’m not taking a class of four out to some jumper. The guy would see us coming and take a flying leap, I told myself. I drew a lot of lines in the sand to feel like I was in control of something. I had a feeling Jerome spent a lot of time doing the same thing.
Jerome wasn’t going to be daunted by something like grades. “They all passed and there aren’t going to be a lot of good situations in a three week window.”
A bright band of light cut across my bra and shirt on the floor. Elise would pull all of your things together if you say you have to rush, I thought guiltily. “Are they even together? They were dismissed until tomorrow.” When they would have been half your responsibility.
He paused, thinking something. “They’re coming in now. It looks like a drawn out hostage situation.”
I sat up and looked over my shoulder to give Elise an apologetic look.
She shook her head and smiled. I’ll start the shower.
I watched her progress from the bed to the bathroom, the strips of light from the blinds made stripes across her back and shoulders. Much better than seeing Carl in his boxers in the morning. “Where am I going?” I asked and dug into the drawer of the nightstand for the notepad and pen Elise kept there.
“Poughkeepsie, where are you coming from?”
I rolled my eyes and heard the shower start behind me. He knew exactly where I was. “Kingston. I head South on route nine, right?” If we’ve got a roll-out tonight there won’t be anything tomorrow. I wonder if Elise still has that waffle mix?
“When you get to the end of the off ramp turn right onto Clarke and you’ll see the circus setting up about a mile down in the Wal-Mart parking lot.” He always called the press a circus and it surprised me that he’d be assigned to anything getting heavy media attention.
My eyebrows went up as I took down the directions. Wal-Mart on Clarke. “They’re holding hostages in a Wal-Mart? That would be impossible to defend.”
“Bank in the same parking lot,” he said in a flat tone.
“So I should meet you in the parking lot?” Nothing covert about that, at least I won’t have to get them to sneak around, I realized with some relief. A bunch of guys with desk jobs earning their field rating to go on ride-alongs was not ideal for stealth. I wasn’t supposed to be running anything like that; Jerome was in charge of those situations. He liked to remind me as often as possible that I’d just gotten my own field rating.
He made a sound into the phone that could have been a sigh. “I’m not going to be there. There’s already an agent on tactical.”
Ah, they wouldn’t let you out. Must have been a real pain to hand this over to me. “I should be there in half an hour, forty minutes tops.” I got up and paused to dig my toes into the thick carpet before I drifted to the bathroom door. I could make out Elise through the shower curtain and leaned on the doorframe to watch her rinse her hair.
“Get there as fast as you can or there won’t be anything for them to work with. The cops will have it all wrapped up,” he snapped.
Then your new people won’t get any credit. That would be a road block on your way back to Deputy Director. “I’ll keep that in mind. See you on Monday.” I closed the phone and set it on the counter next to the sink.
Hand me a towel? Elise stuck her hand past the shower curtain.
“You didn’t wait for me.” I passed her a thick towel and stood back so she could get out, all wet and pink.
She wrapped the towel under her arms and gave me a fleeting kiss. “Got it warmed up for you.” Do you think you’ll eat on the road or do you want me to hold dinner?
I shrugged and checked the temperature. Just right. “Not sure, Jerome says it’s a hostage thing, maybe you should eat without me.”
Get in and I’ll get your bag. Did you leave it in the living room? “Do you want something for the car?” she asked and stood at the sink to comb her hair.
“Trying to hustle me out? I thought you wanted to keep me the whole weekend.” I stepped into the shower and ducked my head under the hot water. The water pressure pounded into my shoulders and back. Fast shower. You’ve got better things to do next week than listen to Jerome bitch about you being late.
I need a haircut. Elise checked her hair for split ends. “I want you back tonight, so yes, I’m hustling you out. Does that mean you want a bottle of water and trail mix or not?”
My eyes were fields of red while I squeezed them shut to rinse out the shampoo I’d worked through my hair. She sounds like her brother. He tried to make me take half the fridge home after dinner. It had been interesting to see, after my nerves had passed, how alike she and Derek were. I had seen it in path siblings but somehow it surprised me when they thought the same way. “I’ll take the water; hopefully this won’t take too long. It’s in Poughkeepsie and Jerome says there’s already an agent on the scene.”
“I’ll hold dinner until nine then,” she said and went back into the bedroom to find her clothes. Where’d I put my blue sweater?
“It’s on the couch,” I called over the water, not sure she could hear me. I finished my shower and was toweling off when Elise reappeared with my bag.
“Clothes.” She looked me over while I rubbed the water out of my hair. You won’t get to wear them much this weekend. She winked, dropped the bag on the floor and sauntered out of the room.
If she’s offering incentives like that maybe you should move in. “You’ve only known her for six months,” I reminded myself. I blew out a long breath and bent down to find a pair of jeans and a shirt. My negotiator’s vest was at the bottom of the bag under my socks and underwear. When I was dressed I slung it over my shoulder. It was heavy with the built-in Kevlar and I didn’t want to wear it until I had to.
I retrieved my phone, my directions and my keys from where they were strewn around the bedroom. I went out into the living room to look for my purse. It was on the bar between the kitchen and the living room. I dug out my Federal ID and made sure I had some cash and my credit card tucked into the holder in case we did get to stop for dinner.
The door to the garage opened and Elise came in with a bottle of water. That was a fast shower for you. “All set?”
I moved around the bar and took the water. I stood in her space without touching her. “I could tell Jerome my car broke down.” I don’t have to work full time. Maybe I could be Carl’s nanny on the weekends.
She reached out and instead of touching my arm she straightened my ID where it was clipped to my belt. You’d have to tell him my car broke down too. And they stopped making cabs. “I’ll see you tonight. You have your key?”
I nodded, it was next to the one for Carl’s back door. “Tonight,” I agreed still standing there knowing I’d be distracted if I touched her. I leaned in and kissed her anyway and got into the car twice as frustrated with Jerome. It’s a good thing he isn’t going to be there, I told myself as I drove out of the development.
I turned on the radio while I waited at the light before the onramp. The tail end of a song was cut into by a voice.
“An update on the Dawson case, today the family has moved their petition to the Supreme Court after the New York Court of Appeals ruled earlier today that the federal surveillance of Dawson was warranted. Other families are taking-”
I switched over to the CD player. I heard enough about the court cases at work, at Carl’s, at Elise’s, anywhere I went. There were already seven cases making their way to the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the Registration Act. Somehow the national sense of anger and astonishment over the paths in the Nevada labs had translated into the lawsuits against registration. They had to blame someone, and the fact that all but one of the victims had been an unregistered path who was being tracked by the feds made it easy to shift the blame to registration itself. From what I’d heard from Carl about Craig’s group and their charter, any path with more than six thought felonies would have been fair game to them, whether or not registration existed. I’ll bet you they want to keep their benefits if they get rid of registration and then they’ll be in the system as paths anyway. Any path who wants to go to a channel school is easy to track either way. “They should be asking why the government had the Unregistered List in the first place.” I merged onto the highway and pulled over to the left lane. Being late would antagonize Jerome.
You could strike up a conversation about the Dawson case. That would distract him. Jerome was even wearier of hearing about it than I was. He was seen as the start of the mess. If he hadn’t tipped the press about Andrew and Craig the arrest could have been an internal problem. If he hadn’t sent a team barreling into the labs while the news choppers were hovering over the desert offices the victims could have been handled quietly while the press was distracted by the arrests. If he hadn’t also been labeled by the press as the case breaker that freed all of the victims, he would have been pulling duty on a wiretap in Antarctica.
He’d been removed from the Piken case. After one session with Andrew he demoted to Senator Gates’ latest project. The sessions hadn’t been that interesting. I’d observed one on an invitation from Jerome’s replacement and it was like Carl said. Andrew talked, and talked and talked some more, until he was hoarse and had to drink pitchers of water to keep going. So far he’d requested two things. Reduced sentences for the cooperating doctors and techs from the lab, and for Carol Matthews to be put in any private facility but Park Slope. Because, as he said, she didn’t like it there.
It was easier to feel sorry for Andrew than Jerome most of the time. Like when Jerome was questioning my field skills in front of a class. It was hard enough to get the agents to pay attention. They were all so sure they knew more about negotiating than some shrink who got the job because she’d helped catch Andrew Piken. Which was half true, Gates also wanted me in his debt so he could use me for side projects. I slid back over to the right lane and followed the off ramp. There was a green light at the bottom. I turned down Clarke and started looking for the Wal-Mart.
I saw the flashing red and blue lights before I could make out the Wal-Mart sign. Cops and a dozen news crews. Local and national vans with antennas on huge poles sprouting from the tops like oversized periscopes. Telepathic cops were a popular evening lead.
I rolled up to the wooden barrier through a tunnel of reporters. When I rolled down my window to show my ID, bright lights and flashbulbs went off. Some of them couldn’t place me, but they’d recognize me later in the editing room. If they were starved enough for material I’d round out some segment on the hostage situation or get a mention alongside a blurb about Gates’ telepathic law enforcement initiative.
The harassed cop waved me through. God what a circus.
“Can you point me toward the agent in charge?” Sometime this year. My mom’s going to call if I’m on the news again.
He jerked his thumb over his shoulder without looking. “Over by SWAT.”
I nodded and rolled up my window. Past the barricade I made out the SWAT van and Maddock leaning against the gray van beside it. I parked off to the side and caught glimpses of the bank that was the center of all this agitated attention. I hoped the idiots holding the place up weren’t paths. They’d be climbing the walls.
I cut the engine, pulled my vest on and checked my pockets. Keys, ID, phone. I went around the side of our van and saw Maddock again. He was leaning against the front door, smoking a cigarette with exaggerated calm. It was the pose he thought made him look the most like James Dean. He scowled at the bank. I say take SWAT in there and nail them. Get a couple of us in there so they know where to shoot first.
He pictured himself in a tactical helmet, ordering the SWAT guys around.
Five of us for three hostages does seem like overkill. How’re we supposed to work in this? Bailey asked, as he rounded the van and stood next to Maddock.
The side door opened and Carson poked his head out. I’m all for heading home. Let’s call Rawls and tell him Lochlan didn’t show.
“Good to know you all came ready to work,” I said when I was close enough. With this attitude, you’re lucky I passed you.
Carson and Bailey looked uncomfortable. Maddock kept his scowl and stared into me. This is a bullshit way to run things. He stepped into my space as I approached. He’d been doing it since the class started, standing over me, arguing about something in every lecture, waiting to see what I would do.
Lee was close to the surface from being with Elise. After weeks of pushing Maddock got his eternal moment strapped to the dentist’s chair, his chest cracked, held open with retractors so we could reach a gloved hand in to squeeze his beating heart.
When it cleared and it was the two of us staring at each other again, he was the one that stepped back and lowered his wide eyes.
I took a deep breath and looked at Carson and Bailey. “Any more problems with how we’re running this?” Did you have something to add?
They both shook their heads, mumbling something like, “no, ma’am.”
“That’s a lot more effective than detention, professor.” Carl pushed past Carson to climb out of the van. Way to put the fear in them. He gave me a brief hug, not quite lifting me off my feet. He was excited about something, which was strange because I knew he’d been at his mother-in-law's earlier. That was why I’d offered to make myself scarce for the weekend.
“You’re blowing my image.” Jerome didn’t say you were the agent. If he had, I would’ve driven faster.
I doubt that, he teased, thinking of Elise. He cleared his throat and faced the team with his arm over my shoulders. “Let’s get in gear.” No paths in there, so your guys are welcome to try and read them before we get started.
“Get up there and dig around. No projecting.” I’ll be up in ten minutes and I want a situation report and a plan of action from each of you.
They all nodded, Maddock looking green and sweaty, and hurried off to the front of the barricade.
Carl squeezed my shoulder and let go. “It seems like you have them in line.” This shouldn’t be much of a problem. One of the perps got shot subduing the security guard. They’re going to want out soon.
I turned to face him. You’re in a suspiciously good mood. “I thought you had the weekend off.”
“You too. How’d you end up with this one?” he asked with raised eyebrows. There was a smile edging his mouth but he was blocking me.
“No one, including Jerome, wants Jerome within a hundred feet of NBC, CNN or even Fox.” Now tell me what’s going on so I don’t have to make a grab for exposed skin and read you that way. I wiggled my fingers at him. I felt buoyed by his light mood.
He pulled back in mock horror and laughed. It was good to see his thinned out face smiling. “I got my on call time knocked down to one weekend a month. Starting next week I get Lizzie on weekends.” I was childproofing the house when I got the call to come in. He had his hands jammed into his pockets and bounced on the balls of his feet.
Joint custody had been hard on him, especially when he was on call. It meant watching the baby at Mrs. Singh's while Lynn was out. He hadn’t gotten more than five or six hours at a time with her since she was born. He was in such a good mood it felt like a weight had been lifted. I smiled hard enough to make my cheeks hurt. “You are going to be distracted tonight.” We’re going to have to get this over with so you can obsess over which mobile to put up over the crib.
I put up that goofy cognitive training one you got her. He checked his watch. “Should we go show these kids how it’s done? This might be my last chance to show anyone up for a while.”
I nodded and we started working through the crowd of cops and parked cars. “It’s not goofy, they work.” You can thank me later when she’s the president.
He held my arm so the SWAT guy running past didn’t knock me over. I’ll settle for healthy and happy. Though able to support me when I’m eighty wouldn’t be bad either. “What about you? Did Elise ask?”
I pulled away from him and kept walking. “Ask what?” I think there’s another big family dinner in the near future. That should be interesting.
Carl wasn’t about to be distracted. You said she wanted you to move in. I thought for sure she was going to ask this weekend. “Glad to know I’m not the only one with crazy in-laws,” he said with an almost fond thought of his former mother-in-law. She was as abrasive as ever, but she had convinced Lynn not to sue for full custody.
It took me a second to realize what he was getting at. He didn’t want me living in the house when he had the baby. With the way he set Lee off, I wasn’t sure I blamed him. “I think she’s going to ask tomorrow. She’s got the whole day planned.”
I saw Carson and Bailey up ahead, talking to a detective and pointing toward the building. I was surprised to feel Carl restraining me again. I didn’t turn around.
Maybe I don’t want to expose her to you and Elise until she’s older. “Later on I’m counting on free babysitting,” he said in my ear.
I could feel his worry about Lee and concern for me in equal measure. I expect payment in éclairs. “She’ll ask tomorrow. Too bad I can’t get you to help me move.”
He released my arm and patted my shoulder. I’d offer if you had anything that didn’t fit in one suitcase. “Is one of your agents about to hit that detective?” he asked abruptly.
I turned to see Maddock squaring off with the detective they’d been talking to. The detective had his hands on his hips, holding his jacket back to show a roll of stomach protruding over his belt. “My money’s on Maddock.”