Conspiracy of Swords
(See Part 1 for Disclaimers)
Shadowriter can be reached at Shadowriter@kc.rr.com
Teren was staring at the two briefcases as they sat next to the door. They hadn't moved since she'd arrived, and she was determined that they weren't going to. Instead, she would wait until Alex came in, and then she would pick them up and carry them right back downstairs and out the door.
At the first tap on the door, she was up and across the room, pulling the door open in anticipation, only to find Ron Graves before her.
"What?" Teren growled.
"Uh, I'm sorry, Teren. I thought I'd let you know that your car is here."
She stared at him. "My car?"
"Yes. I had it brought here from the airport garage. And your luggage has arrived, too. I'll have someone bring it up to you."
Thinking quickly, Teren shot a hand out. "No, Ron, don't bother. Leave the bags where they are for now. I'll get them later." She glanced back at the briefcases. "Has Alex finished, yet?"
"Just about. She should be up soon."
"Good," Teren nodded. "I'll follow you down, if you don't mind."
Graves shrugged. "Sure."
He led Teren though the corridor, then turned and went down a long flight of stairs. As they reached the bottom, Teren could see Alex leaning against a wall in the living room, with Ken beside her. Cliff was there as well, and he was shaking hands with a gray haired man that she recognized as Andrew Collins. As she watched, Collins gave a final wave to Alex, and left.
Graves cleared his throat as he and Teren went into the living room. Alex looked up and lowered her eyes quickly. Ken saw Teren and grinned.
"Hey, Teren. How are you?" He tilted his head a little, noting the bandage on her temple. "Ooh, looks like you got roughed up a bit."
"It's no big deal, Ken. Nice to see you. How's the leg?"
"Good. Still hurts, and I'm supposed to be on the crutches, but, " he shrugged. "I hate those damn things."
"Yeah, I know the feeling." Another glance at Alex made Teren's stomach flip. Something was wrong.
Cliff stepped forward, and shook Teren's hand. "Nice to see you again, Mylos. Wanted to thank you for helping Alex out. We all really appreciate it."
"It's no problem, Cliff."
"Glad the two of you are back. It'll be nice to have Alex back on the team."
Alex shook her head at that and pulled herself away from the wall. "That's just it, Cliff. I won't be back."
"What the hell are you saying, Reis?" Cliff asked.
"I mean, I can't come back. Director Collins took me off rogue status. However, he also took my badge. I'm no longer a member of the FBI."
There was a shocked silence that filled the room. Then Ken broke it.
"Fuck, Alex, what does that mean? He fired you?" His voice was incredulous.
"No, Ken. But I'm on indefinite suspension, until this entire case is cleared to his satisfaction. When it is, he'll reconsider."
Again, the moment stretched, until Cliff dropped into a chair with a groan. "Holy fucking shit."
Alex nodded. "I agree."
Teren folded her arms. "Fine. Alex, you're not going to be arrested again, are you?"
"Good. I figure you'll feel better in your home than here. Ron, here, has graciously had my car brought over from the airport, and our bags have arrived. How about I get our briefcases, and we can get the hell out of this fucking place? Sound good?"
Her blonde partner nodded. "Sounds great, Teren. I'd love to go home."
"Good. I'll meet you at the car." She turned to Graves. "Do you have the keys?"
"No, I --"
"Well, I suggest you get them. Now."
He nodded, and turned to leave.
"Ron? Have our bags taken to the car as well, got it?"
"Teren -- "
"Got it?" She put more menace in her voice and was satisfied to see him look miserable. He nodded, and left.
Teren put a hand on Alex's shoulder, then walked back toward the stairs which she took two at a time.
Cliff and Ken just stared at Alex in disbelief.
Alex waited by the driver's door. As Teren approached, she held out her hand.
"I'm driving." Teren started to protest, but Alex held up a hand. "You got shot in the head three days ago. You may fool everybody else, but I know when you're hurting, Teren."
The taller woman stood there with her mouth open, then shut it with a snap. Without another word, she dropped the keys in Alex's hand and walked around to the passenger door.
"Where are we going, Alex?"
"My apartment. When we get there, I want you to sweep for bugs."
"Right." Teren paused. "I thought you wanted to go see David."
"I do. Tomorrow, when he's home. Right now," Alex said, "we need to talk."
They got in the car and drove in silence.
After a thorough search, Alex's apartment was pronounced clean, and she dropped onto the sofa, glad to be home.
Teren stood near the door, looking uncomfortable. "Should I go --"
"Absolutely not. Get your ass over here and sit."
The darker woman raised an eyebrow but sat down on the couch.
"You need to see this." Alex handed her a folded wallet. Teren opened it to find a CIA ID badge, in Alex's name.
"What the hell?"
"I haven't been suspended. I've been placed on loan to the CIA, as your temporary partner, until we figure this out."
Her partner stared at her. "Why? Who did this?"
"Director Collins and Agent Graves, with permission of several other people whose names I wasn't told. At first, they were just going to pair me with you, since the two of us had already proved the international connections, making it CIA territory as well. But, I told Collins about your theory of someone in the FBI working with White and Treville, and he agreed with it. They decided that the best way to cut that person off from us and any reports on our progress is to make them think that I was no longer with the FBI, or on this case."
"So, they pretended to put you on suspension, but . . ."
"But, they actually give me temporary status in the CIA so that we can keep working." She gave Teren a half smile. "I wanted to tell you right away, but we all agreed that it would be better if the two of us got out of there. I'm exhausted, so, I didn't have a problem with faking my reaction -- depressed is easy. But, I thought we should keep your reaction as real as possible. So, I decided to wait until we got back here."
"Why didn't you tell me in the car?"
"Well, I thought maybe Graves had bugged it, and I didn't want to tell you knowing I might be recorded."
"Which is why you wanted me to check out your apartment." Teren nodded. "Very good, Alex."
"Thanks." She grinned. "So, what now, partner?"
Teren leaned back, staring up at the ceiling. "Now, we find White, Treville, and all the other fuckers involved in this thing." She turned her head to look at Alex. "It's not going to be easy, though."
"Well, if he did kill Radcliffe, he's probably somewhere in the city. Ken said they had an APB out on him, and the airports were looking for him even more than they were looking for me. As a matter of fact, Tom and Rudy are tracking him. Maybe we should let them find him, and start with something else."
"Like the post office box for CJ. We could check that out, and see where the records lead us."
"Good point. We could check it out tonight -- less chance of people being around."
Alex frowned. "Why not now?" She stifled a short yawn.
Teren pointed at her. "That's why. You said yourself, you're exhausted. I'm tired too." Alex folded her arms and looked at Teren. "Okay, Alex, yes, I also have a headache." They grinned at each other. "It might be better if we just slept for a while. Get over the jetlag as much as possible. When we wake up, we'll start looking for CJ. Okay?"
The blonde head nodded, even while Alex's hand covered her mouth in another yawn. Then she stood, and stretched.
Teren stayed on the couch, her hands on her knees and her head down. Alex noticed a strange look on her friend's face, and stopped.
"Ter? What's wrong?"
Teren shook her head. "Nothing. I'm fine."
"Bullshit. What's the matter?" Alex was startled to see Teren's face begin to turn red. "Teren?"
Her tall partner fidgeted for a moment, then frowned, her gaze on her feet. "Alex, could I -- um -- stay? With you?" She hesitated. "In your room, I mean?"
"Well, you didn't think I was going to make you sleep on the couch, did you?"
Teren glanced up to find Alex smiling at her.
The blonde woman extended a hand towards her friend. "Come on. I'll chase your bad dreams away if you do the same for me."
Teren smiled at that. "Deal." She took the offered hand,
letting Alex pull her from the couch and into the bedroom.
The box registered to CJ was located in a branch post office just barely inside the District of Columbia, near the Maryland border. Box owners could still retrieve their mail after working hours, as long as they had a key. However, since it was nearly eleven o'clock, there weren't many people around.
Teren was in the passenger seat of her car, having once again lost the keys to Alex's determination. The blue gaze went back and forth between Alex and the door of the building. Alex just stared at the post office.
"Well, what, Teren?"
She sighed in exasperation. "Did you bring us all the way out here, just to sit and watch the door?"
"No, of course not."
"Then what are we waiting for?"
Alex finally turned her gaze to her partner. "Do you have a key to the lobby?"
"No, but --"
"Well, I don't either. Kind of tough to get in there without one, huh?"
"Never stopped me before."
One blonde eyebrow rose. "You want to break into a United States Post Office?"
"No, just the box area." Teren glared as Alex shook her head. "Hey, you didn't have a problem the last time I picked a lock."
"Number one, you were picking the lock on a tomb. Number two, there weren't a dozen cameras around. You want someone to get you on tape, picking a lock?"
"Ah, I'm good enough that they'd think I had a key." Teren slumped down in her seat, though, and mumbled to herself.
Alex shook her head.
"So, then why are we here if we're not going in?"
"We are going in -- we're just waiting for someone else to go in, and then as they're leaving, we'll slip in. Got it?"
"Uh-huh. And then what? Bust into the box? There are cameras inside too, you know."
"Yeah, but in there they won't be able to tell that you don't have a key. They'd be able to see the pick at the door."
Teren was silent, but Alex could tell she was still frustrated.
"Alex, we could be here all night. For all we know the next person in might be an employee at six in the morning or something. Why don't we just --"
She stopped at Alex's raised hand. "There's someone pulling up. Looks like a single person. Get ready to move, okay?"
"Finally," Teren grumbled.
They waited until the car was parked, and watched as a young man in a heavy black jacket got out and walked towards the door.
"Okay, as soon as he gets inside the building, we'll -- oh, hang on. Shit! I don't believe it."
"What?" Teren leaned forward and looked where Alex was gazing. The young man was being accosted in the middle of the parking lot by another, much taller individual. "Who the hell is that?"
Her partner looked grim. "That's Derek White."
Slowly, Alex opened her door. Teren did the same, and slipped around to stand behind Alex's car.
"They don't know who we are, Alex," she whispered. "Let's walk over as if we're just going to the post office, okay?"
The blonde head nodded, and they started to cross the street.
Derek and the young man were beginning to shout at each other, and Teren could clearly hear them.
"--no, you've got to take me to see him! Those two sons of bitches tried to kill me, and now everyone thinks I killed Stephen. You --"
"I'm not taking you anywhere. The word's out on you, and you can either leave or --"
"You fucking pile of --"
Teren reached for her weapon, noticing that Alex was doing the same. Her steps quickened, taking her ahead of her shorter companion.
Suddenly the shorter man reached inside his jacket, and White grabbed for his arm. The two were scuffling, and metal glinted in the light of the parking lot.
On instinct, Teren veered to the left, behind a parked car. She took aim on the men, and watched as Alex also pulled up and focused her weapon.
"Freeze! Police! Drop the weapon, and put your hands over your head!"
There was a hesitation for a split second after Alex yelled, then the struggle renewed. With a sudden punch, the short man was on the ground, and White held the gun. He turned it towards the place Alex was hiding. Teren sighted, and squeezed her trigger. The gun in White's hand went flying as he clutched his bleeding fingers.
"Give it up, White."
There was a look of panic on his face, and then he turned and ran. Alex took off after him, close on his heels.
The man on the ground groaned. He looked up to see Teren
standing over him, her gun pointed at him, and a pair of cuffs dangling from
Alex followed White as he headed down the block, and turned a corner. She made the turn carefully, and saw her quarry halfway down the block. She thought about taking a shot at him, but even at this hour, DC wasn't fully asleep, and she didn't want to chance a civilian getting in the way. Besides, she wanted to take him in alive. So, instead, she picked up her pace, making sure to keep White in her vision.
Her chance finally came when he made a quick left into an alley behind a restaurant.
Perfect. Alex could see that the restaurant was still open, which would mean there would be a light behind it. With that, she could take White down if she had to.
As she approached the alleyway, she heard a loud voice cursing. She paused, peering carefully around the corner.
Derek White had trapped himself. The alley was a dead end, with a cement wall blocking his path. As Alex watched, White turned, looking for an escape or a hiding place.
Alex stepped into the alley and aimed, cocking her weapon. "Give it up, White. I'd really rather take you in alive."
He turned, and rushed her.
For a split second, Alex hesitated. It was enough to let White get close enough to grab for her gun. She pulled away, but couldn't avoid his fist as it lashed out. He connected with her arm, and the gun landed on the sidewalk behind her, a good ten feet away.
Her instincts took over. As he threw a punch, she ducked, landing a jab on his jaw. He swung again, but Alex danced back, then sent a kick towards his face. It connected, and he staggered backward.
Shaking himself, White came forward again. Alex saw him
glance toward her gun, and she stepped over slightly to keep herself between
him and the weapon. He glared at her, and threw a punch. Once again, Alex ducked
under it, this time landing a solid blow to his solar plexus. He collapsed.
Teren was putting her cuffed prisoner in the backseat when another car pulled into the parking lot. It had government plates, and she tensed.
Two men got out of the car, and began walking towards her. "Aren't you Teren Mylos?"
She moved forward a little and nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
"Well, you're helping out a friend of ours." One of the men reached into his jacket pocket, and Teren reflexively went for her weapon. "Easy. Just wanted to show you my badge." He flipped open a small wallet to show her an FBI Identification. "Tom Jorgen. We're on the task force with Alex."
Teren nodded again, but didn't relax. "Nice to meet you. What are you doing here?"
"Well, my partner Rudy and I," he pointed to the other man, who was hanging back several feet, "we were assigned to bring in Derek White. But he kept giving us the slip." He shrugged. "We got a tip that he might show up here. Have you seen him?"
"Never met him." There was a prickling sensation on the back of her neck. She could swear she heard chuckling from the prisoner in the car. "What made you think he'd stop here?"
"Well, it was just a tip." Tom looked past her into the car. "Who do we have there?"
Teren shrugged. "Caught him fighting with someone. He didn't want to listen, so now he's under arrest."
"But, you're CIA. You can't arrest anyone."
Another shrug. "Citizen's arrest. I hate people who don't listen to reason." She noticed the other agent moving sideways, as if to flank her, and she tensed again.
"Well, since we're here, and we have the authority, why don't you let us take the prisoner off your hands. I'm sure you don't want to spend the night filling out paperwork at the police station. We'll just take him downtown and save you the trouble."
Teren was finding the man's smile irritating. "It's no trouble. Should be a new experience."
Tom laughed, but it sounded hollow. "Now, Agent Mylos. You don't really want to do that. Besides, there's no witnesses, so it'll be your word against his. Plus," he looked around, "I don't see anyone he could have been fighting with. Do you, Rudy?"
"Nope. No one, Tom."
"Oh, don't worry about that. He's already on his way to the station. In fact," she made a show of checking her watch, "I should really get moving myself. Nice of you guys to offer, but I can manage." She backed up and waved. "Thanks again. Good luck finding this White guy."
Tom stepped forward, his hand inside his jacket. "I'm afraid I can't allow you to do that, Agent Mylos." He drew his gun. "Now, we'll take the prisoner. Open the door, please."
She sighed. "Okay. If that's what you really want me to do." Teren leaned against the front door, and reached to open the back. As she did so, she watched Tom's eyes carefully. As she suspected, his gaze was drawn to the movement of the door, and he never saw her draw her gun.
"Oh, Tom." He looked back at her to find her .45 staring at him. "I think you and your friend had better put down your guns, don't you?"
His answer was to raise his weapon.
Alex had Derek White cuffed, and standing. He wasn't being cooperative, though, and had tried to kick her several times. She was seriously considering knocking him unconscious and going to get the car.
Besides, she was worried about her partner.
"Would you stop it? I really don't want to beat the shit out of you, but I will if you don't stop squirming."
"Why don't you just shoot me? Or are you going to torture me first? Maybe burn me alive, like you did my wife, huh?"
"What are you talking about? Who burned your wife?"
"You're FBI, aren't you? You work for CJ!"
He squirmed again, getting himself turned around, and tried once again to kick her. Alex felt a blast of cold anger, and blocked his kick. Then, with all the power she could muster, she drove her knee into his groin, letting him fall back to the ground.
White curled up on his side, mewling in pain. For a moment, Alex was tempted to hit him again, but she shook her head and knelt beside him, forcing his eyes to hers.
"My badge has been pulled, Mr. White. So you're facing one very pissed off ex-FBI agent. Now, I suggest a little cooperation is in order. Unless you like pain?" She pulled her arm back, aiming a punch at his crotch.
He moaned and shook his head. After several breaths, he coughed, and then looked up at her, grimacing.
"You're not with those other two?"
"What other two?"
"The two that came to Alabama. They said they were FBI, and they were there to arrest me. But they shot my father-in-law, and set a bomb to blow up the factory. They told me CJ wanted me dead."
"You got out?"
"They left me tied up in my office. I managed to get out, as did most everyone else. But I ran into my secretary, and she said my wife had gone in looking for me, and no one had seen her since the blast."
"So, it was her body."
He nodded, and Alex let out a breath.
"Do you know who CJ is?"
"No. I've met him, and I know he works for the FBI, but I don't know anything else. I don't even know how to contact him."
"What were doing here tonight?"
"I knew he had to have someone pick up his mail from his P.O. box. Thought I could talk the guy into taking me to see him." His face twisted. "Looks like CJ put the word out, though, and everyone wants my blood."
"Why did you kill Radcliffe?"
White struggled to sit up. "I didn't. I swear! I was in my car, driving up here, when I heard the news. Then when they said I was wanted for questioning, I knew I'd been framed. So, now if I turn myself in, no one will believe me, because I'm wanted for murder. And if I stay out here, I'm dead. CJ or one of the others will find me eventually." His shoulder sagged. "Might as well have let them kill me in 'bama."
Alex nodded, and made her decision. She grabbed him by his short hair, and yanked his head back. "I'm not gonna kill you. And I'm gonna give you the chance to prove you didn't kill the guy. But I swear, if you give me any more trouble, or you lie to me, I'll leave you on a street corner and take out an ad telling CJ where he can find you. Got it?"
They locked gazes for a moment. White opened his mouth as if to speak, but the fire in Alex's eyes made him close it with a sigh. He nodded, defeat crossing his face.
As she was hauling him to his feet, there was a series of gun shots, and Alex paused, staring back towards the corner.
There were sirens in the distance and closing fast when Teren finally saw Alex round the corner. She breathed a sigh of relief and punched the gas pedal, pulling the car to a stop beside her partner and Derek White.
Alex pulled the back door open, and pushed White inside. He slid onto the back seat without a protest. As Alex got into the front, Teren watched White's face, which was turning very pale.
Once the door was closed, Teren threw the car into drive, and took off.
"What happened, Teren?"
"Seems someone didn't want us to talk to these guys. Couple of men stopped in and tried to take my prisoner off my hands."
Alex glanced at the back. "Did they succeed?"
"In taking him? No. He's back there. But unfortunately, they managed to put a bullet thru his brains. He won't be telling us much."
"Damn." She shook her head. "Well, Derek here is willing to talk. So, we need to protect him. Can you think of a place we can take him?"
"How does Virginia sound?"
"Good." She turned and checked out her partner. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. They didn't even nick me."
"Who was it?"
"Never saw them before. But the one guy said they were on the task force with you."
"Shit." She glanced at Derek. "Did you get the name of the agents after you in Alabama?"
"No. But I could describe them."
"No need," Teren said.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I got the body of one guy stuffed in the trunk. The other guy got away, but I know I hit him, and he'll need some attention."
"And you think they were after White? Were they really FBI?"
"They said they'd been sent to pick him up, but he kept slipping away from them. I saw their badges, so I'd say that they were, yeah."
Alex shook her head. "You had a shoot out with two FBI agents? Teren--"
"They pulled first. What was I supposed to do, Alex, let them shoot me?"
"No, of course not. Sorry. Just frustrated. Did they tell you their names?"
"Yeah. Guy named Tom is in the trunk. Rudy got away."
"Shit." She exhaled loudly. "Tom Jorgen and Rudy Wilkins. The first two members of the team." Alex stared out the window.
"Um, excuse me," White spoke up from the back seat, "are you telling me you took out at least one, if not both of the guys that wanted to kill me? And this little maggot got killed in the crossfire?"
Teren nodded once.
"Cool. Guess that means I'm in the clear, for a while at least. Until CJ finds out."
"What? Until who finds out?"
Alex looked back over at her partner. "Derek claims that CJ sent two agents after him, and they blew up the Kittredge factory. He only survived cause he slipped out of the ropes."
"But, I thought Cliff Jackson sent them to arrest him."
"So did I." She turned her attention back to the darkness outside her window.
So, you're, um, really not FBI anymore?"
"That's right, Mr. White." Alex's voice was soft, but very cold.
"Which means, you're not FBI either, huh?"
Teren glanced up at him in the rearview mirror. "No."
"So, are you a cop?"
"Well, if you're not a cop, what are you?"
She raised an eyebrow and glared at him in the mirror. "I'm an assassin for the CIA."
No one said anything for several miles.
They stopped at a pay phone, where Teren spent a couple of minutes talking to Graves. She told them she was bringing in a suspect, and that they'd need a secure place to keep him. After he woke up, Graves okayed their plan, and told Teren he'd meet them at the safe house.
Alex stayed in the car and watched.
"So, what's the CIA doing in on this? I thought they weren't allowed to work in the US, or something like that."
"The CIA joined the case when we discovered the international connections. Or did you think we wouldn't find those?"
White shrugged. "Don't matter to me. The only ones who dealt with that part were CJ and Treville."
He shook his head. "Don't know much about him. He was never at our meetings."
"But CJ was."
"Yeah. And Treville. Jacob Dawson. Martin Richmond. Kyle -- well, you know."
"Yeah. I know." She could still see Brogan falling, half of his head missing. Alex shook her head to clear the memory.
"So, where are you two taking me?"
"To a safehouse. You'll be protected until we can figure out who CJ is. After that, we'll turn you over to the FBI and the Justice Department. You'll face charges of conspiracy and murder."
He gaped at her, shock on his face. "Wait a minute. You're gonna hold me, without a warrant or anything, with no charges, and then turn me over to the Justice Department? That's not fair."
"Fine. I know this great street corner, right by the FBI building. We could let you out there."
He paused for a moment, then said, "You gotta get me a deal. Or I won't tell you what I know."
"And what do you know that we don't? That Kittredge was a money-laundering operation? That the plan to kill radical left activists was financed by Radcliffe and a German? That you hired Mather and Wilford to do the killing, and then killed them when they didn't seem as interested in your goals as they were in money? What? What do you have to bargain with, Mr. White?"
They fell silent for several minutes, watching as Teren finished her conversation and walked back to the car. Just as she was reaching for the door handle, White leaned forward and whispered.
"I'll give you Treville."
Alex turned to look at him.
Continues in Chapter Thirty-eight
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