“Might as well,” he said. “Knowing her, she’ll start using the bullhorn in the next minute.”
What he didn’t say was that this was an extremely vulnerable moment for them; if either or both of them disappeared into FBI custody, it might well be the last time they saw daylight, depending on what Riley knew, and how angry she was about it. But the alternatives were worse—shooting it out with the feds had never been much of an option.
Bryn pressed the gate release and disarmed the security system.
“What’s going on?” Annalie asked from the doorway. She sounded scared. “Is it—is it them?” She meant Jonathan Mercer and Fast Freddy, her captors.
“No, it’s not,” Patrick said without turning. “Mercer’s not stupid enough to come here. It takes a federal employee for that.”
“Hey, play nice,” Bryn said. Patrick smiled grimly. “Riley’s probably angry over the fact I lied to her about Graydon. She’ll have heard something else by now. What are we going to tell her?”
“And the video?”
“We’ll play it for her,” he said. “Because I want to see her face when she gets a good look at what’s going on. If she knows anything about those disappearances, it’s going to be hard for her to hide it. If she doesn’t know…that’s instructive, too.”
The tactical van was rolling up the drive now, with the five agents riding the running boards. It was, Bryn thought, effective theater straight out of the Prohibition-era playbook. Riley knew perfectly well they weren’t going to walk into a guns-blazing firefight, but she was making a point.
Liam headed for the front door, but Bryn cut him off. “No,” she said. “It’s for me.”
“You want backup?” Patrick asked. She shook her head.
“Stay with Annie. I’ll see if I can’t make this go away without too much trouble.”
Patrick took Annie’s arm and led her to the kitchen table, and as Bryn was leaving, he asked, “Do you like hot chocolate?”
Bryn was sorry to have to go, if it meant missing out on the hot cocoa. But she firmly shut the kitchen door on the other three, and—Mr. French tagging faithfully at her heels—went to the front door and swung it open just before Riley was about to deliver a wood-damaging knock with the blunt end of a very large flashlight.
Riley glared at her for a few seconds, then turned to her tactical team, waiting just behind her with weapons still hot. “Stand down,” she ordered, and arched an eyebrow at Bryn. “Unless you want to do it the hard way?”
Bryn silently stood aside to let her in. The team commander followed her inside and gestured for his other men to remain where they were. Well, Bryn thought, at least we don’t have to worry about my friends in the ski masks sneaking up on us just now.
What she did have to worry about was the boiling fury kept barely under the surface in the FBI agent’s body language.
“I suppose offering you coffee would be out of the question,” Bryn said, and got nothing, just a flat stare as she closed the door. “Okay. Shoot. Metaphorically.”
“You lied to me,” Riley said, and every word was individually sharpened and polished to a high sheen, and flung at high speed. “Do you really think your situation is that safe, Ms. Davis? Do you think that because you’re living here, you’re no longer subject to the terms of the agreement you signed? Because lying to me is a very, very bad idea and will have serious, painful consequences, not just for you, but for Mr. McCallister as well, and any of his associates who want to earn themselves an accessory charge.”
Bryn hesitated for just long enough that it was clear she wasn’t going to be bullied, then said, “Let’s discuss this somewhere more comfortable.” She turned and walked into Patrick’s office/library. After a pause, Riley followed, trailing her somewhat unnecessary bodyguard. He, at least, seemed amused, and, once they were in the library, took up an at-rest stance by the doors as Riley and Bryn crossed to the desk.
Bryn checked the computer quickly. Patrick had left the thumb drive plugged in, and she quickly copied the files with a fast swipe of her fingertips over the pressure-sensitive trackpad.
“Davis,” Riley said, and knocked knuckles on the wood of the desk. “Focus. What are you doing, checking Twitter? You lied to me.”
“I hope you’re not stupid enough to think I’m kidding, because in about five seconds you’re going to be in handcuffs, on your way to a location so secret that it’ll take even McCallister ten years just to find it on a map.” Riley visibly controlled herself, and then said, in an artificially even voice, “You said you didn’t find anything at Graydon’s offices. That was a lie. Go on, ask me how I know.”
“Manny Glickman,” Bryn said. “He called and told you. But the question is, did he tell you what it was?”
“He said you brought it to him, and he refused to have anything to do with it.” Riley sat back, arms crossed, eyes half-hooded but bright with challenge.
Bryn said, “I need to show you something.” She spun the monitor around and clicked play.
Riley started to object—she clearly wanted to keep momentum in the meeting—but when the video began, she stopped, frowning, then leaned forward. The frown deepened, and Bryn watched her closely.
She saw the almost imperceptible flinch as the shots were fired into Jason’s head, and then the gradual dawning of horror as the furnace began doing its grim work. But Riley didn’t ask for it to be turned off. She watched the whole thing, as if it were her sworn duty.
When it finally ended, Bryn said, “I have two more. They’re the same, except for the identities of the people being put in the furnaces. And from the length of time the screaming goes on, they’re all Revived. Now. Let’s start over. What do you know about this?”
Riley was silent for a few seconds, then said, “The coveralls the workers were wearing had a logo on them. Was it Graydon doing the dirty work?”
“Cleaning up,” Bryn confirmed. “Literally. And then they got the same treatment.” She smiled a little, but it wasn’t from humor. “The people in that office died from bullets in the head, then were burned when the bomb went off. I doubt that was any kind of an accident. I think it was done that way to send a message. Was that message meant for you, Riley?”
The bitter anger in the look she got spoke volumes. “Do you really think I spent the last six months of my life playing grief counselor, nanny, and Mother Teresa to a bunch of spoiled corporate-ladder climbers just to shoot them and shove them in a furnace? No, Bryn. It wasn’t me.”
“Not even on executive orders?”
“It may have escaped you, so I’ll spell it out slowly: I work in the FBI. That doesn’t stand for Federal Bureau of Incineration.”
“Tell that to the employees of Pharmadene that didn’t make it out of the Civic Theatre when it blew up.” Riley shook her head, but Bryn didn’t give her the chance to talk. “You knew, and you let it happen, because it was one of those necessary evils. So is that what’s going on here? Sanctioned murder, and a blind eye by your bosses? Because I swear to God, Riley, I will blow every whistle with every media outlet there is, including the Daily Shopper, if you don’t make it stop!”
Riley sat back in the leather chair. “If you threaten that kind of thing, you know I have to take you seriously. You don’t want that, Bryn. You really don’t. Because for starters, you disappear into custody. You, your sister, McCallister, Joe, Liam, Manny Glickman, Pansy Taylor, maybe even Joe’s wife and kids. It becomes a roll-up of everyone who has any personal knowledge of your status. Hell, even your staff at the funeral home. All confined to six-by-six cells. Do not mess with me. I don’t play chicken. I wring necks.”
The threat wasn’t anything Bryn hadn’t expected, but it still chilled her, because the look in Riley’s eyes was unyielding. She was right; the FBI couldn’t take risks. Her job was to walk a delicate line between the care of the people who were—not by their own choice—addicted to Returné and keeping the secret from getting out. It wasn’t by any stretch easy. And it required a certain level of unflinching, weirdly compassionate cruelty, too.
Mr. French, lying at Bryn’s feet, sensed the mood in the room getting even darker, and raised his head to stare at Riley. He gave her a low, rumbling growl.
“These people couldn’t just disappear,” Bryn said. “They reported in daily for shots. If any of them missed two days in a row, the alarm must have sounded. You must have known, Riley.”
“What I know, and when I knew it, is none of your business.” Riley stood, grabbed the thumb drive from the laptop, and yanked it free. “I won’t ask if you kept copies; of course you did. But I’ll just give you this one warning: stop. Agent Zaragosa asked you to do one thing: visit Graydon and see if it warranted a full investigation. You did. You found a massacre and a mystery. Your job’s over. The rest you leave to us. It’s our job to protect you.”
“And you’re doing such a great job.”
“Let me make it very, very clear,” Riley said. “Go back to selling caskets to grieving relatives. Take care of your sister—I understand she’s pretty fragile right now. And let it go. These killings died with Graydon. Understand?”
“Then who tried to abduct me tonight—Santa Claus?”
“We’re handling it. And we have the resources to shut them down, so let us do our jobs. Stop playing Harriet the Spy, or your next room with a view looks out on Guantánamo Bay.”
Riley stood up and stalked for the door, and her tactical team leader opened it for her, then followed her out. There were no good-byes. Bryn made sure they left, sealed the gates, turned on the security, locked the front door, and then went to the kitchen.