“And you can’t do it without a partner, either, Special Agent Grady,”
Burns responded with a hard glare.
“Sir, it seems obvious,” Zane said, not bothering to keep any edge of disapproval out of his voice, “that this agent needs more than I can possibly provide to help him. Frankly, it will take a miracle to make him even remotely professional. No one will take him seriously. ”
“Take me seriously?” Ty echoed in disbelief. “Christ, have those shoes ever even seen pavement? Shit,” he exclaimed in a sudden panic as he gripped the arms of his chair and leaned forward. “Are you sending me to Cyber?” he asked Burns, who was sitting behind the desk and grinning like a small child at Christmas.
“Your tone of voice implies that investigating technological crime and terrorism might be below you,” Zane said to him coldly as he leveled an even gaze on the other agent. “Perhaps you should consider requesting a transfer to professional staff. Or submitting your resignation altogether. ”
“Hey, fuck you, candy ass,” Ty snarled without looking over at him.
“Quiet, both of you!” Burns barked suddenly. “Grady, you’re staying in Criminal until you get your ass killed or do something so illegal even I can’t cover for you, understand? Garrett, you’re to make certain he doesn’t do either of those things. Is that clear? And you will both like it. ”
Ty’s eyes widened as he realized he was being assigned a bookkeeping babysitter, and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.
His stomach turned at the thought, but he supposed it was better than being fired. Or being in jail.
The thought of being attached to this troublemaking loose cannon was nearly enough to make Zane lose his composure. After all he’d done, all he’d worked for, this was all he was going to get. Despair threatened for a moment, and he had to take a deep breath to push it aside. He wanted to rail at Burns, but it wasn’t his place to object. He’d make the best of this clusterfuck, and then leave this agent behind, just as he had the Cyber Division. That or go down in spectacular flames.
“Yes, sir,” he acknowledged through clenched teeth.
“I expect you to learn from each other,” Burns instructed, his heart going out to Zane Garrett. It was a shitty thing to do to him, sticking him with a man like Ty Grady after he’d worked his way back up from hell to be Cyber’s top performing agent. But for this particular case, these two men were unusually qualified. “And the Bureau expects you to perform efficiently on your next assignment,” he added as he tossed a file across the desk at Ty.
“Respectfully, sir, I understand you need someone riding herd on this
… agent,” Zane gritted out. “But what am I supposed to learn from him?” he asked, slanting a disbelieving look Grady’s way.
Burns gave Ty a dubious glance and then shrugged apologetically in answer to Zane’s query. He was well-acquainted with Garrett’s past, but the man was resourceful. He’d had to be. He’d find a way to make this work.
“You can learn to kiss my ass,” Ty shot back as he fumbled with the file his boss had chucked at him. “Just like you do everyone else’s,” he muttered.
Zane’s temper lightened in the face of Grady’s ridiculous assertions, leaving behind more than a trace of resentment. He would have rolled his eyes if he weren’t aware of how it might be construed. The man’s language was complete and purposeful insubordination. It looked like his new partner was a real prize, one that had somehow gained the favor of the Assistant Director of his new division—just as he himself was the focus of Burns’ ire.
“Sir, if I may ask, who is this delightful new person I'll be calling my partner?” he asked, the sarcasm thinly veiled.
“Special Agent B. Tyler Grady,” Burns answered as Ty scanned the file he had flipped open, ignoring them both as he looked through it. “Despite his appearance, he is unfortunately very good at his job. ”
“You’re putting us on the Tri-State case?” Ty asked suddenly, utter disbelief coloring his words as he looked up at Burns.
Zane stiffened and inhaled sharply. He knew all about the Tri-State case. Hell, everyone in the Bureau knew all about the Tri-State case, even though they had only been working it for a few weeks. A really messy, really conniving, really frightening serial killer kept popping up and going to ground every few weeks—for almost two months now—in New York City. Two bodies were found just across state lines, near the Tri-State marker, and most involved seemed to think the killer deliberately left them there to involve the FBI. Most recently, just days ago, the man took out two of their own agents, so the Bureau was now more personally invested.
Zane’s eyes shifted back to Grady. Very good at his job, Burns had said. Zane decided it must have been undercover work. Drugs or organized crime, maybe import/export. Somewhere that rough-and-tumble image would fit in. His mind started to buzz, calculating how their skill sets might complement each other. Or not.
“That’s right,” Burns answered with a tap of his pen on his desk.
“And you will report to the New York field office—appropriately attired, Grady—at eleven-hundred Monday. Is that clear?”
Recognizing the dismissal and standing, Zane nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said curtly. Zane’s most recent tour may have been spent in a high-tech computer lab, but that wasn’t all he could do. He was a damn good agent, and he knew it. But he couldn’t help thinking of Tyler Grady as a snake that might strike at a critical moment and poison his fragile job security. He could already tell this wasn’t going to be easy. Actually, he could already tell it was going to be beyond hard as hell. But while there was the chance that one whiff of the bat could collapse his carefully reconstructed career like a house of cards, he also had a prime opportunity here. If he could make this work it would send him a long way. And he wouldn’t let any scruffy agent who fancied himself a badass get in his way.
Ty sat and stared at Burns for a long moment before standing and stepping toward the desk. He put two hands on the desk and leaned over, crumpling the file in his hand as he glared down at his boss. “You know me better than this, Dick,” he murmured. “My partners don’t last long. ”
“This one had better,” Burns responded without blinking at the insubordinate tone.
“You promised me,” Ty murmured accusingly.
“Consider it recanted,” Burns replied unapologetically. “Go home and shower, Ty. You fucking stink. ”
The voices were low, but Zane heard enough. Burns’ parting shot was clear, and Zane’s lips twitched as he turned to lead the way. This Ty Grady must be some kind of special superstar for the Assistant Director to put up with that behavior. That or he was blowing someone further up the chain, Zane thought uncharitably. He allowed himself a slight grimace when he stopped in the outer office. He’d heard the same rumors about himself at one time. More than a few times.
Ty followed him and glared at Zane for a long moment as the secretary sniffed disapprovingly at him. “Sooner we get this over with, sooner we can go back to how it was. Got it?” he finally said to his new partner.
Zane didn’t dignify the utterance with a reply. “May I see the case file, please?” he asked civilly.
“Get your own,” Ty answered as he turned and stalked out of the office.
Zane stood there for a moment, mouth slightly agape. Ty Grady was a rude, insufferable, egotistical, stinking son of a bitch, and Zane was going to need to figure out how to tune him out. Otherwise, he just might give in to the pressure and kill the bastard, for the good of humanity.
TY sat at the all-night diner near his apartment and read the file for the fourteenth time as he poked at his bacon and eggs. The papers had greasy fingerprints on them, and a few smudges that weren’t identifiable, but Ty didn’t notice. What he was seeing were the facts of the case. It was one of the most fascinating cases he’d ever read about, much less been involved in. The killer seemed to pick h
is targets at random; there was no victim type at all. He had no MO to speak of, and he left little to no evidence behind. The current belief was that the little evidence that had been collected was left intentionally, and the scenes where the bodies were found were certainly staged.
Eight murders and counting. The only two that hadn’t been positioned after death (or killed creatively, as Ty thought of it) were the two FBI agents who had been investigating the murders. Two trained agents, both with military backgrounds, shot point-blank in their hotel room before either man could even fire a weapon. And the only reason the Bureau attributed their deaths to the killer was because they were working on his case, and the FBI didn’t believe in coincidences.
Ty shook his head and sighed, glancing at his watch with a blink.
“Fuck,” he groaned, digging in his pocket for money to leave on the table as he gathered his highly classified information and unceremoniously stuffed it under his jacket. He had things to do tomorrow— today, really—before he had to fly out early Monday morning.
ZANE sat at his dining room table, a whole stack of copied files spread out in front of him. Case details, reports, autopsy recalls, scene photographs, forensic evidence … there was so much to read through, so many details.
Details that caught and filtered through Zane’s analytical mind. He’d been sifting through notes for hours trying to identify patterns, not in the case itself, but in the standard structure of investigation: where it was followed precisely, where it differed, where there were gaps in the investigation, where there was too much useless information. There’d been so many people on this job that it was already a mess.
A man didn’t work at the FBI for nearly twenty years and not collect favors.
Sighing, he pushed away the coroner’s reports comparison chart he’d made and carried his bowl to the kitchen sink, washing it out carefully before wiping the counter down. He glanced at the clock on the wall, straightened his shoulders, and cracked his neck. He’d have to leave extra early to get from Arlington to Dulles by 0530 to catch the plane. And he’d need every bit of patience and fortitude he could scrape up to get through what he knew was coming.
IT was a commercial flight, and the tickets were waiting for them at the airline’s front desk. Ty rolled his head from side to side and loosened his tie, grumbling unhappily as he walked in the hazy predawn through the parking 12
lot. He had his suit jacket over one arm and two duffel bags of clothing and gear slung over his shoulder. He carried a beaten and scarred leather satchel by a strap across his chest as he walked. He was running just a little late, but he wasn’t exactly worried about it. When he got inside, his tie askew and his suit coat wrinkled, he finally pulled the satchel over his head and plunked everything down to shrug into the jacket. He then hefted everything again, repositioned the bags, and made his way to the check-in desk.
“I knew you’d be late,” Zane commented as Ty walked past him.
“And I knew you’d still have that stick up your ass,” Ty responded with a shake of his head, not slowing as Zane spoke to him.
Ty’s smart-ass response didn’t rate a reply. Zane waited for him to get his ticket and check his bags before falling in beside him to walk to security.
They’d met a total of two times now, and Zane had the same fleeting impression: Ty was an asshole who’d been lucky enough in the red zone to make it this far. And the Bureau wanted him to be lucky some more, but they didn’t want to risk anything going wrong (because Ty was so very obviously insane), and that was why the very efficient Zane Garrett was charged with holding his leash.
It made Zane tired just thinking about it.
They showed their identification and were waved through security after a brief check. Still thinking about Ty’s shit-for-attitude, Zane amused himself by thinking about what Ty must have had to do to pass muster. All agents went through the academy’s sixteen-week New Agents Training Unit, and then they were farmed out and specialized. Because of his background, Zane excelled in the finer points of the law. Layers of information. Patterns.
Details. Puzzles. It surprised people that Zane had a brain to go with his brawn, and he’d used it to his benefit many times.
Way back when, the Bureau assigned him to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Criminal Investigations Branch, working on financial crime. As he got more cases under his belt, he shifted to organized crime and informant matters, which put him into a brief stint in undercover work. Several personal and professional swerves and wild dives later, he was moved out of the CID and into the Cyber Division, digging up and dusting off those old pattern and detail skills to reestablish himself and hopefully polish his very tarnished reputation. He tried not to think about that tarnish often.
He was starting to suspect Ty Grady possessed a completely different set of specializations, and Zane was absolutely sure that they wouldn’t mesh with his own. Looking over his new partner, Zane decided immediately that Ty obviously wouldn’t have any trouble with the physical side of the job. He was an inch or two shorter than Zane, but his muscle weight probably equaled Zane’s own. He was physically impressive, no doubt, and together they were clearly intimidating as they walked through the terminal.