“MacMurtry, Hearst, bring your case files and notes on the Browne suicide to my office,” Captain Smith asked from his office doorway. Anne gave Jason a questioning look, but he pretended not to notice. He’d been cagey since they’d walked into the squad room. Anne’s instincts were telling her something was wrong. She grabbed the folder with all of her material on the case and followed Jason into the captain’s office. The captain wasn’t alone.
The man and the woman waiting in the captain’s office were both dressed in dark suits that screamed fibbie. The man was older, his brown hair sprinkled liberally with gray and lines etched into his face. His brown eyes were flat and complemented his stern lantern-jawed visage. The woman reminded Anne of Veronica. She had that same dark olive skin and long, straight black hair. She was Anne’s own height with a lean, runner’s build. She tried to match her partner’s stern, no-nonsense look, but it just didn’t work as well.
“Thank you, Captain Smith,” the man said as the two detectives walked into the now-crowded office. There was a trace of a northeastern accent. Boston, maybe? “We appreciate your cooperation in this matter. I hate to impose, but do you mind if we talked with the two detectives privately for a moment.” The captain’s face went neutral, which Anne knew meant he was well and truly pissed. Getting thrown out of your own office would do that to most people.
“I’m going to talk with Welks and Rodriguez about their case,” the captain said to Anne and Jason, pointedly ignoring the two feds. “Let me know when you’re done, and then get back to your open cases.” The stocky man bulled out into the squad room, barely missing the two feds. The woman closed the door and made sure the blinds were closed.
“Was all that drama necessary, sir?” Jason asked, “We could have delivered the files by mail and met you at a restaurant downtown. Now, the interest in this case is going to skyrocket.” The woman agent looked shocked, but her partner smiled. It looked somehow wrong on his face.
“You’re probably right, MacMurtry, but this one is time critical. We think we may actually be ahead of them this time,” the man said. He then seemed to finally notice Anne. “Apologies, Detective Hearst. I’m Special Agent Belushi, and this is Agent Privas. We’re from the task force.” Anne shook their proffered hands.
“So, how do we go about this?” Anne asked, “What do you want us to do?” The two agents gave her peculiar looks.
“You don’t do anything, Detective,” Agent Privas answered, “It’s in the task force’s hands. You walk away.” Her soprano voice was cold and firm. Anne guessed she’d tried for commanding, but failed miserably.
“So you want Jason, me, and the Avalonians to stay out of this?” Anne asked, incredulously.
“Your Avalonians are here for the sole purpose of making sure that you do not fall into the hands of the Dark Towers,” Agent Privas snapped. Her partner laid a restraining hand on her shoulder.
“The task force doesn’t think that the Avalonian team would be able to contribute much to this investigation,” Special Agent Belushi said. “We appreciate your wanting to help stop these nocturnes, but it would be best for all involved if you focused on your mundane cases.” His face hardened. “And your magic.”
Anne grit her teeth. The lines of wild magic glowed to her eyes as she felt her anger rise. It would be so easy to wipe that look off of his face. A little cold, a little air – the binding would be so easy. She forced herself to take a step back. Wild magic was seductive. It wanted to be used. It was one of those traps Anne had discovered over the past few months working with Veronica. The lines faded into the background.
“Fine, we’ll play it your way,” Anne said.
“As if you had a choice in the matter,” Agent Privas snapped. Anne tossed the woman a cold stare before turning back to Special Agent Belushi.
“I think you’re making a mistake,” Anne said, “The Avalonians could be damned helpful.”
“Thank you for your concern, Detective, but we have plenty of our own resources,” Special Agent Belushi replied. “We will let you know if the nocturnes have been captured, but until then, I must remind you to stay out of the task force’s way.” The two agents walked out of the captain’s office.
“Thanks for all the back-up there, Jason,” Anne said, whirling on her partner.
“Don’t get mad at me,” Jason answered, evenly, “In case you forgot, I work for Belushi. And FYI, Belushi is not just another agent of the task force. He’s the special agent in charge of the task force. So, if he says the task force doesn’t want Erik and the gang’s help, that is the final word. Also for your information, Privas is his chief spell slinger. If you’d lost control of your magic in there with them, she’d have turned you into a cinder. So, let’s do what we’re supposed to be doing and forget that case ever came across our desks.” His face had that muley expression, so Anne knew she wasn’t going to get anywhere. The pair let the captain know they were done with his office and walked back to their desks.
Anne sipped her coffee as Jason studied some paper on his desk. She was still angry. Partners should back each other, even if one of them did work for a secret government unit responsible for protecting the nation from supernatural forces. They’d been working together for eight months. That should have bought her a little support. She replayed the conversation with Belushi and Privas in her head.
“Jason, what kind of creature is a nocturne?” Anne asked, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before.” Jason looked up from his desk with a confused look on his face.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, figuring out what Anne was talking about, “No, nocturnes aren’t creatures. They’re kind of slang for the various things that the task force deals with. Kind of like the special forces teams call terrorists ‘tangoes.'” He looked down at his watch and grimaced. “I’ve got a conference call with Denver in a half-hour on the Allero extradition. Are you going to be good with getting lunch on your own?” Anne just nodded. Jason threw a bunch of files into his messenger bag and dashed out the door.
Anne worked on a couple of her cases for an hour, then decided she’d do better with something other than lukewarm coffee in her. She was still angry and frustrated with Jason and his fibbie friends. She looked down at the flyer at her elbow. The cafe across from the station was serving spice cake today. She deserved some spice cake. Anne grabbed her jacket and purse before walking out of the squad room.
The line at the cafe was long, and Anne wondered if there’d be any cake left by the time she got to place her order. The man behind stepped a little too close to her. A soft, woodsy cologne wafted around them. It was nice, but not enough to lessen her annoyance at someone who didn’t understand the concept of personal space.
“Excuse me detective, but could I buy you some lunch?” the man behind her said. Anne whirled and looked up into Arem’s smiling face.