“You’re going to Seattle.”
Dave took the news better than Moreen, who groaned loudly. “We’re taking her deal?” she asked.
“We’re taking her deal,” their supervisor, Walter, confirmed. They were sitting in front of his desk, which was a mess of overstuffed files, loose papers, and stapled reports. Walter Franke was a beefy, middle-aged former agent who’d had the misfortune of being excellent at his job. It led to his promotion, making him responsible for nearly the whole department instead of just his own cases. The stress left him permanently grouchy.
“You know we can’t trust her,” Dave said.
“No, I never would have guessed. Thanks so much for letting me know.” Walter rolled his eyes. “We don’t have a choice. The pressure’s coming down hard to solve this murder, and right now, the Black Valentine’s our only lead.”
“But there are so many better options we could try first,” Moreen muttered, “Like a magic 8-ball or a phone psychic.”
“I don’t like it any more than you do,” Walter said. “But if you want to take out your frustrations on me, by all means, keep griping. I’ll wait.”
Moreen prudently opted not to say anything. Dave raised his hand.
“Jesus, Del Toro, this isn’t a classroom. What’s your question?”
“Why am I going?” Dave asked. “I know I’ve resisted the Black Valentine’s mind-control before, but she’ll be on exatrin the whole time, right?”
Moreen smirked. “Maybe they want you for your Sherlock-like skills of deductive reasoning.”
Dave gave her a mock glare but didn’t argue, because she was right. He wasn’t the brilliant investigator. He was the guy who punched things really hard.
“Carl Rundstrom, the murdered agent, was the son of some industry bigwig,” Walter said. “Rundstrom Senior hands out a lot of campaign contributions, so we’ve got all kinds of governors and senators and blustering busybodies pressuring the director to bring in the murderer quickly. And nothing says we’re putting our best people on the job like an appearance by White Knight.”
So Dave’s job was to stand around and get in the way of the real investigators. Wonderful.
“Speaking of appearances,” Walter went on, “What’s the deal with your nose? When can you take that square of toilet paper off?”
“A few days to a couple of weeks. Take it up with Dr. Ortiz.”
From the look Walter gave him, you’d think Dave wanted to wear the thing. “Moving on,” Walter said, “You’ll both be in charge of the Black Valentine’s security.”
“So if she runs off because some higher-up wanted to risk taking her out of a cell, it’ll be our fault,” Moreen said. “Delightful.”
“Don’t let her run off,” Walter advised. “You’re on a red-eye flight tonight. Here’s your itinerary. Agent Gallo will meet you at Sea-Tac. Keep me updated.”
Dave shared a glance with Moreen. Walter was right; there was no use griping.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
Dave knew it was going to be a long trip the moment he saw the Black Valentine. She strolled out of the DSA building in high-heeled boots and a miniskirt, pulling a suitcase behind her. Dave dragged his gaze up from her legs, seeing her jet-black hair down from its ponytail, the wind blowing it back from her face. He reminded himself that she was a villain, murderer, and a thief. It was dangerously easy to forget sometimes.
“Look at you,” she said, eyes lighting up when she saw him.
“Yes, I’ve got a bandaged nose,” he said. “You’re not the first person to mention it today. You’re not even the tenth.”
“Actually, I was talking about the whole business causal look. I’ve never seen you in anything but your costume.” Her gaze moved lazily from his body to his face, and Dave felt himself involuntarily stand up straighter. “The nose isn’t bad, though. It gives you a rugged edge.” She deposited her suitcase at his feet and walked to where Moreen waited with their ride to the airport. “Carry that for me, will you?”
Dave stood there, staring dumbly at the suitcase. There was a glittery heart-shaped keychain attached to one of the zippers. Where had she even gotten a suitcase from? She hadn’t had any luggage when they’d arrested her in Ft. Lauderdale. Had her lawyer brought it to her?
The only other option was to leave it sitting on the curb, so Dave picked it up with a sigh and carried it to the trunk. The Black Valentine was already sitting in the back seat, but Moreen leaned against the outside of the car.
“You blew it,” she said. “That was your best chance to assert your authority. Now she’s going to walk all over you for the rest of the trip.”
“It’s just a suitcase. There’s no reason not to be polite.”
Moreen shook her head as she got into the driver’s seat. “You’re doomed.”
So very, very doomed. 😛
The next update will be on Monday, October 10th, and should be a little longer than this one.