Conspiracy of Swords
by Shadowriter

(See Part 1 for Disclaimers)

Shadowriter can be reached at

Chapter Nine


Dinner was actually pleasant, if a littler quieter than other dinners at Sarah's. Alex tried to watch Teren without being obvious, while Teren chatted away with her hosts, smiling at Alex whenever their eyes met. Once in a while Sarah or Maggie would try to coax Alex to join the conversation by asking her a question. Alex would smile and answer in the shortest terms possible. Then she'd go back to watching Teren.

"So, Alex, how are you doing on this case you're working on? Sarah said it had to do with Reginald Dabir's death?"

Alex looked at Maggie. "Yeah. I'm trying to find who killed him."

Teren looked up. "That's right, you work for the FBI, don't you?"

Their eyes met. Alex's voice was tense as she answered, "Yes, I do."

Sarah had noticed Alex watching their guest, and she could see something was wrong with her friend, but she had no idea what. Whatever it was, she decided, was probably unimportant. Sarah was determined this was going to be a good evening.

"Alex is one of the best agents they have. Her and her partner David were even given special citations after they caught a serial killer in Minnesota."

Teren's eyes went wide. "You were on that case?"

"She cracked that case, Teren. Didn't you, Alex?"

Alex looked at her plate. "It was a team effort, Sarah. Everyone worked together."

There was nothing but the sound of forks against plates.

Finally Teren broke the silence. "Maggie, you are an excellent cook. This chicken is perfect."

"I'm glad you like it, Teren. I've always liked cooking. Sarah does the baking, but she's terrible with anything on the top of the stove."

"Really? Well, I can't even do that. I nearly burned the house down the last time I tried to make toast."

Everyone laughed. Even Alex chuckled.

"What about you, Alex, do you cook?"

"No. I don't have time for it."

Sarah leaned toward her friend. "Oh, come on, Alex. You're a great cook. You used to make the best lemon chicken, and your beef teriyaki is legendary. I used to look forward to coming home on Fridays, just because I knew you were cooking."

"Wait, Sarah, you mean you and Alex used to be together?"

"Well, yes, we were."

Alex glared at Sarah. "It didn't last long."

"And yet the three of you are still friends? I think that's great."

Sarah smiled at her guest. "It is great." Then she returned Alex's glare. "Most of the time."

Alex reached for her glass of wine and sipped it. "So, Teren, what do you do for a living?"

Teren smiled. "Actually I teach hand-to-hand at the FBI office. When you come up for recertification, I'll probably be your instructor."

Maggie looked at Teren. "What's recertification?"

"To remain on active duty, a field agent must prove that he can handle him or herself in a fight. Agents are tested at least quarterly on their proficience with their weapon, and at least twice a year they must pass a hand-to-hand combat test. They can study karate, or some other martial art, but they have to be able to defend themselves against many different kinds of opponents."

"Alex is a kickboxer," Sarah said proudly.

"Really?" Teren's eyebrows rose. "I didn't know that. We'll have to spar sometime. I used to do a little kickboxing, though I don't think it's as good for self-defense as tai-kwan-do or jujitsu."

Alex kept her eyes on the figure across the table. "It depends on whether you're defending yourself on the streets or on the gym mat. Personally, I think kickboxing is better for street fighting. It always surprises an opponent."

"It would, unless the opponent is skilled in any martial art. Then, the edge goes to said opponent."

"I have found that even those with good martial arts skills can be surprised when faced by a kickboxer. I know I've surprised a few people."

Teren smiled. "I'm sure. I bet most people wouldn't expect someone of your size to do something as strenuous as kick-box. That would be a surprise, I suppose."

Maggie and Sarah laughed. Alex sipped her wine.

"You'd have found it a surprise, I think."

The words were said quietly, but they were enough to stop Teren as she brought her fork to her mouth. It finished its journey, then Teren reached for her wine glass.

"Yes," she said. "But it would have been a pleasant surprise."

Their gaze met, and held.

Maggie and Sarah couldn't help but notice. The two of them smiled at each other, thinking they were right. Sparks of some kind seemed to fly between their friend, and their guest.

"Well, if everyone's finished, why don't we go into the living room? We can talk in front of the fireplace, and get to know each other a little better."

Sarah winked at Maggie as Alex and Teren stood, picking up their glasses of wine.

"Sarah will you help me clear the table?"

Teren turned towards the couple. "I'll be glad to help."

"No, no, you go get comfortable in front of the fire. After all, you did build it." She glanced at Alex. "And besides, you and Alex both worked all day. Sarah had a half-day and I didn't work at all. We'll take care of this. You two go get comfy."

Alex cringed inwardly at her friend's blatant attempt at matchmaking. She knew she'd have to have another talk with Sarah about her and Maggie's choices of dinner mates. But right now, there was nothing she could do. Maggie and Sarah gently urged them out of the kitchen, and she and Teren found themselves in the living room, alone.

Alex tried to focus on something other than the ice-blue eyes that watched her. Her gaze landed on the chess set arranged on the side table. Teren saw it as well.

"Do you play chess, Alex?"

"Yes. You?"

"All the time."

Alex nodded. "I smell a rat."

"What do you mean?"

She motioned towards the kitchen. "Those two don't play. At all."

Blue eyes met green again, and for the first time, they both laughed.

"Well, we might as well let them think their plan worked." Teren motioned to the set. "After you."

"Would you prefer black or white?"


"Really. I would have thought someone like you would want to move first."

"On the contrary. I've discovered that those who move first usually lose."

"I see."

They seated themselves, Teren behind the black pieces, and Alex across from her, behind the white.

"It does seem rather odd that this was already set up, doesn't it?"

"Yes. The last time I saw this table it was piled with books from Maggie's workplace." Alex moved her queen's pawn forward two spaces.

"Where does she work?" Teren countered by moving her king's knight.

"She's the manager at a bookshop, near DuPont. It's not far from my home." Alex brought her king's knight in front of her pawns.

"I see. And Sarah?" Teren moved her queen's pawn forward.

"Sarah works for a real estate firm. She's an appraiser." Alex countered with another pawn.

"How did you and Sarah meet?" Teren took Alex's pawn.

"Why are you here, Teren?" Alex moved her king's pawn.

"Because I got invited to dinner by two students in one of my night classes at the women's center. You?" Teren moved the pawn from in front of her knight.

"Are you saying you didn't know I was going to be here?" Alex pushed her pawn forward to meet Teren's.

"No. But I didn't know until last night." Teren replaced one of Alex's pawns with her own.

In response, Alex used her queen to take Teren's pawn. "So, you're saying this is a total coincidence."

"Yes and no. Sarah actually made the invitation last week, long before we met. But I was going to turn her down last night when she reminded me. Then she told me she wanted to introduce me to her friend Alex, who was an FBI agent." Teren moved the pawn from in front of her rook. "I figured there couldn't be more than one of you, so I agreed."

"I see." Alex moved her rook's pawn two spaces up. "And you wanted to see me, why?"

Teren swiped another pawn from the board. "To check in. Find out how you were doing."

"That's all?" Alex countered with her rook, removing Teren's pawn.

"Well, that, and I wanted to congratulate you." Teren moved her queen's knight in front of her bishop. "You found the hotel room, I hear."

That stopped Alex for a second. She took a moment to recover, and moved her king's bishop across the board. "Yes. Are you the one who stripped it?"

"No. My sources found it just a couple hours before your guys showed up. It had already been stripped." Teren countered with her queen's bishop.

"Any guesses as to who did it?" Alex's king's knight went forward and right.

"Someone who doesn't want you to find them." Teren moved the pawn from in front of her king.

Alex placed her knight two squares from Teren's king, taking the pawn that had occupied the square. "Obviously. Can you give me a name?"

"No." Teren slid her queen over one square. "But I can tell you you're on the right track. And the money angle was the right one to follow." She glanced up at Alex. "I trust you didn't find anything amiss in my bank records."

Alex moved her queen the same distance. "No. You knew I'd check you out, though, didn't you."

"Of course." Teren used another pawn to take Alex's bishop. "I knew you wouldn't trust me. It's always a good strategy not to trust."

Alex replaced Teren's rook with her own. "I'm not sure I agree with you, but I'm sure you have your reasons for believing that."

"I do." Teren moved her pawn onto the square with Alex's queen and paused before removing the piece. "Just like you had reason not to trust me." Her eyes were focused on Alex's as she spoke.

Alex returned the look. "You were following me Monday night." Alex looked back at the board and took Teren's queen with her rook. "Check."

Teren nodded. "I was." She took the rook with her bishop. "How did you know I was there?"

"I didn't know it was you." She studied the board. "But I got an itch on my back that said someone was watching me." Alex used her knight to take another pawn. "You were pretty good. I never even caught a glimpse of you. Check."

Teren nodded, and moved her king forward one spot. "You weren't supposed to."

"Why did you do it?" Alex moved her knight to the left and back.

"To test you. To watch you." Teren cocked her head and looked at Alex. "You were right, you know. We are kind of on the same side, I suppose." She moved her king's bishop to the other side of he board. "But the last time I trusted someone who was supposed to be on my side, I got shot, and my partner died." Teren shrugged. "I choose to be very cautious now. Check."


In the kitchen, the table had been clear for several minutes, and the dishes were in the dishwasher. Sarah had wiped down the table several times, while Maggie had not only wiped out the kitchen sink, but had polished the faucet. They were trying to keep the giggles to a minimum as they listened to the soft rumble of voices in the other room.

"At least she's talking to this woman. Last time she begged off right after eating."

"I remember. We were left trying to console Laura because Alex gave her the brush off."

Sarah swept the floor one more time, and opened the closet to put the broom away. She stopped when Maggie took hold of her arm.

"Do you hear that?"

Sarah listened. "I don't hear anything."

"Exactly. They stopped talking."

They looked at each other.

"Okay. Either they're really concentrating on the chess game, or . . ."

"Maggie, I don't want to think about 'or.' We better get out there."

Maggie leaned over and kissed her partner. "I think they like each other."


"Yes. Not that either of them will say so."

"I know. They're a perfect match, you know. Two very stubborn women."

"Sweetheart, people could have said the same thing about you and Alex when you were together."

"No. Alex and I were good for each other as lovers for a while, but we've been even better for each other as friends." Sarah kissed her partner back. "Besides, Î'm not stubborn."

"Oh, really. And who, pray tell, is constantly insisting that she's got to find someone for Alex?"

"That's different. I'm her best friend; it's my duty. Says so in the contract."

Maggie shook her head. "Well, come on, best friend. Let's see if they're just really concentrating or if they've committed hari kiri on each other."

"Wait. Listen. They're talking again. Maybe we should give them another minute or two."

"Sarah, if we wait any longer, Alex is liable to come in here and yell at us."

"Well, then, let's give her a reason to yell." Sarah pulled her partner closer, and kissed her. Neither of them paid anymore attention to the voices in the other room.


Back in the living room, the chess game had continued silently. Occasionally, Alex would raise her head and examine her opponent as Teren studied the board. After her move, Teren would study Alex, contemplating the situation.

Finally, Alex used her queen's bishop to take Teren's king's bishop. Teren countered by taking Alex's bishop with her knight. In turn, Alex moved her knight back once more. Tern placed her bishop two squares from Alex's king.


"Yeah." Alex reached up and knocked her king over. "I concede. You're very good at chess, Teren."

"Thank you. I have to be."

They started placing pieces back on their original squares.

"What do you mean, you have to be?"

"Well, the way I look at it, chess is made up of two parts: defense and attack. You have to balance the two. If you concentrate on only attack, you'll probably lose your king quite oftent. If you concentrate solely on defense, you may not lose, but you certainly won't win."

Teren placed the last of her pawns on the board. "I have to do the same thing. If I protect too much, I can't complete the objective. But if I risk too much, I'll die." She shrugged. "It's a game of chess."

Alex nodded. "You make a good analogy. However, in chess, there's only you controlling the men on the board. If you need help, there's no one to turn to. That's not true in life."

"Isn't it? Even if I ask for help, the final decision is still mine. People could live or die depending on what I decide to do. If I ask help from someone, and it's the wrong person, it could mean disaster. In chess it's just a game, and I might lose my king. In life," Teren's eyes looked haunted for just a moment, "it already cost me a partner."

Neither of them could pull their eyes away from the other.

Sarah and Maggie chose that moment to join them in the living room.

"Sorry we took so long. Had to load the dishwasher and everything." Maggie stopped talking when she realized that Teren and Alex hadn't heard a word.

"Anyone up for another glass of wine?" Sarah appeared with the bottle in her hand.

Teren pulled her eyes away from Alex's. "I'm sorry, Sarah, but I'm afraid I'll have to call it a night. I've got a long day tomorrow, and I should be getting home."

"Oh, no, Teren. Please stay."

"I'm afraid I can't, Maggie."

Sarah turned to look at Alex, wondering what her friend might have said to make Teren leave.

Alex, for her part, stood as soon as Teren did. "Yeah, I should be going, too. David'll go ballistic if I'm not on time."

"Alex, you know you can stay. We'll drive you home later." Sarah really wanted to talk to her.

Alex knew it. "No, I really should go. Hey, Teren, you think you could give me a ride? If DuPont's not too far out of your way, that is?"

Maggie's eyes went wide, and Sarah's jaw dropped.

"Sure." Teren wasn't sure why Alex had asked, but she wanted a chance to talk in private with the agent.

"But --" Sarah started to object and Maggie quickly broke in.

"That'll be great, Teren. We would have worried about Alex going home on the Metro."

" It's no problem. I'd be happy to give Alex a lift home."

"Well, good. I'll just go get your coats. Alex, why don't you help me?"

Alex rolled her eyes and followed Maggie out of the room.

Sarah was still looking shocked.

"Sarah, I want to thank you and Maggie for having me over. I don't get a chance to socialize much, and tonight was good."

"Well, we're glad you came, Teren." Sarah had finally gotten her brain unstuck. "I hope you enjoyed yourself."

"I did. And you're right, Alex is a special person."

Sarah just smiled, but in her mind she yelled, Yes!


Alex followed Maggie into the spare bedroom.

"Okay, Mags, what did you want to talk about?"

"What makes you think I wanted to talk?"

"It doesn't take two people to get two coats. Come on, I don't want to keep Teren waiting."

Maggie took her arm. "You like Teren, don't you?" It wasn't really a question.

"She's not bad. A good chess player." She has to be I suppose, Alex thought.

"Come on, Alex. I know that look in your eye. You do like her."

Alex shrugged. "She's beautiful, intelligent, and seems nice. I suppose I could get to like her."

"Are you going to ask her out?"

Alex wondered if she would be asking if she knew the truth about Teren. "I don't know. We'll see."

"You said she's beautiful and intelligent. What's stopping you?"

"At the moment? You." She grinned at Maggie, who swatted her arm.

"Alright, I'll take the hint. Let's go."

Alex slid her coat on and followed Maggie to the front door.


"Thanks, Maggie," Teren said as she took her coat. "I'm really glad you invited me. Dinner was great."

"I'm glad you had a good time. You'll come over again, won't you?"


It took a few more minutes to get out the door, with both Maggie and Sarah giving each woman a hug.. Alex could see that Teren was a little uncomfortable being touched, but was tolerating the physical affection with grace. Then, finally, the door closed, and Teren led the way to her car. She used her remote to unlock the doors, and Alex slid inside.

Teren waited until they were out of the drive before she opened the conversation.

"I like those two. They're good people."

"Yeah, they are. Course, I could do without their constant attempts at matchmaking."

"What, you don't like blind dates?"

"I think there's a reason they're called blind dates."

"What's that?"

"Cause sometimes they hit you like a train hitting a blind man."

"Ouch. Are you talking about tonight?"

"No, no. Well, yeah, kind of." She heard Teren chuckle."How exactly did you meet Sarah and Maggie?"

" I volunteered to teach karate two nights a week at the women's center. They signed up for my Wednesday night class."

"I find it hard to believe that Maggie really wants to learn karate."

"Well, it's mainly self-defense, but I like to add some of the discipline of karate. I think it makes the students take it a little more seriously."

"I see." Alex turned to examine Teren's profile. "Speaking of karate, did you have to beat up Mark yesterday?"

Teren glanced at her. "Who's Mark?"

"Mark Garnett. He was in your class yesterday afternoon. It appears you used him for a punching bag."

"Oh, him." Teren's voice expressed her distaste. "Yeah. I took offense at something he did in my class. He became a demonstration piece."

"He says he didn't do anything. First you asked him to work with a person, and the next thing he knew you were throwing him around the room."

"And of course you believe him."

Alex paused. There had been no inflection in Teren's voice, and she knew that her reply would probably set the tone for their working relationship, if they were to have one.

"I saw you when you were using Tony Lewis to demonstrate a point," she began. "I went to the academy with Tony. He had a tendency then to think he was better than everyone, and if he began to lose a fight, he'd lose his temper. You were right, if you do that, it can kill you. I thought the lesson you taught him was appropriate."

Teren nodded, but didn't say anything.

"When Mark told me he was in your class, I warned him. He likes to play around a lot, and I didn't think you'd appreciate that, so I told him not to mess around. He told me he wouldn't. And today, when I spoke to him, he said he didn't."

Alex turned back to Teren. "So, I guess I'm confused. I believe Mark in that he didn't do his normal clown act. But, based on what I know about you, I don't believe you're the type to just pound on someone without a reason. So, I'm asking. What happened?"

Teren nodded again. "You know, if you ever get tired of the FBI the state department could probably use your diplomatic skills."

Alex chuckled. "No thanks."

Teren sighed. She took a breath and let it out before she started speaking.

"There's this person I've been working with. She's in the Records Department, and she wants to be a field agent." She glanced at Alex. "I guess you know what that's like, huh."


"Well, the only thing that's really stopping her from even applying is that she has no defensive skills whatsoever. So, she asked me for help. I told her that I'd help her if she met some conditions. First, she had to show up at three classes a week. Second, she had to follow a nutritional and conditioning program. And third, she had to do everything I told her to. She agreed. We've been working together for nearly six weeks, and she's getting better."

She shrugged. "Yesterday, I paired her with your friend Mark because I thought he'd help her without getting too macho and really pounding on her. I was right, he worked well with her."

"So what happened?"

"I told them I wanted to see them work on her attack. She's a soft hearted person, and it's hard for her to actively strike at someone. So, she was to attack, and he was to defend. They were to keep practicing until the end of class, or until she got a punch through his guard."

She stopped talking for a moment. Alex waited.

"He dropped his guard."


"He dropped his guard. Purposefullly. She was getting a little tired, and so he thought he'd take pity on her and let her hit him. She was happy. I was furious."

"Because he let her hit him."


They were both quiet for a few minutes.

"I don't get it, Teren."

"Don't you? Look, Alex, if she's on the street, there's no way in hell her opponent is going to say, 'Oh, you're getting tired, so, here, I'll just let you hit me.' Instead, their going to take advantage of it, and kill her. It does her no good for someone to 'let' her hit them. It teaches her nothing, and gives her a false sense of her ability. It's wrong, and no one in my class will do that again, or I'll make an example of them as well."

Alex was beginning to realize that, despite what she knew of Teren's previous occupation, she was beginning to really like the dark haired woman. There was sense of honor about her that Alex would never have expected an assassin to have.

"I understand." She paused. "So, what did you end up doing with your student after Mark headed for the ice bag?"

"I paired her with another student. They worked until the end of class, and then Melissa and I stayed there and worked some more. I told her she wasn't leaving until she landed a blow. I meant it."

Alex stared at her. "Melissa. You mean Melissa Hendricks?"

Teren grinned. "Yeah. I take it you know her?"

"We worked together in Research. Nobody could believe she even made it through the Academy."

She paused. "So, how late did you keep her there?"

"'Til she hit me."

"You mean she actually got through your guard? Either you're one hell of a teacher, or we're not talking about the same person."

"Yes, she hit me. She was exhausted, hot, sweaty, and she was sporting a fat lip from not ducking a counterpunch. But, out of desperation, she lunged forward after I threw a punch, and she clipped me on the side of the head. It wasn't pretty, and it didn't have much power behind it, but she did it. And that was the whole point."

"And then you let her go home."


Alex shook her head. "Damn. I'm glad you were't my instructor at the Academy."

"Don't be so happy. I probably will be the person you face in your test."

"I know. I'd ask you to go easy, but you'd probably take it the wrong way, and I'd end up in the hospital."

Even Teren chuckled at that.

Alex noticed they were just outside the DuPont neighborhood. It wouldn't be long until they reached her home, and there were several things she still wanted to talk to Teren about.

"I don't suppose you need my address, do you."

Teren flashed her a smile. "No."

Alex nodded. "Look, Teren. We need to talk."

"I thought that's what we'd been doing."

"I mean about the case. I know you have information that can help me."

Teren didn't say anything.

"I remember you telling me there was a reason you thought the same person or persons were behind the death of your partner and the murders I'm working on. If it's something you absolutely can't tell me, I'll accept that. But you even agreed earlier that we're on the same side. If you have any information, I really need you to share it with me."

"You've been doing very well on your own, Alex. Why would you need me?"

"Everything I've found has simply confirmed what you told me Monday night. George Mather and Darryl Wilford killed several people. Now their dead. I need to find who killed them."

"Why? I thought they did you a favor."

"Because whoever killed them also ordered the murders. They're the ones I want."

Teren stayed quiet.

"You told me you wanted them, too."

"I do."

"Then help me."

Teren sighed. "Look, I already told you, when I get the word on Mather's apartment, I'll let you know."

"Teren, --"

"Alex, stop."

They were both quiet for a moment. Teren glanced at her passenger.

"How do I know I can trust you, Agent Reis?"

Alex tilted her head. "I could ask you the same question, Agent Mylos."

A nod. "So, it looks like we're at an impasse."

"Looks like."

Teren pulled the car over to the curb in front of Alex's apartment house. She dimmed the lights, but didn't turn the engine off.

"Teren, I know the killings were probably ordered by the Klan, but I can't prove it."

"You mean Derek White?"

"Yes. He has a cousin in Philadelphia named Kyle Brogan. We can't prove it, but we're positive Brogan gave Mather his car to make the hit in. Then he reported it as stolen."

"I think you're wrong."

That stopped Alex. "What are you talking about?"

"Look, I'm not saying White isn't involved. I think he is. But I don't think he's the guy at the top."

"So who is?"

"I don't know. If I did, do you think I would need your help?"

They stared at each other in the darkness of the car. Alex was shocked by Teren's admission, but could clearly hear the frustration in her voice.

"What do you need me to do?"

"You have access to records that I can't get. Officially, I'm no longer an agent; I'm on leave for at least another two months. I have some sources, but none of them are legal, and I wouldn't trust any of them not to slit my throat. I need someone who has access to information I don't have."

Alex took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Then maybe you'll be interested in making a deal."

"I hate deals, Alex."

"I'm not fond of them. But my boss, Cliff Jackson, said he would be willing to share resources with you."

Teren fixed an eye on her. "If?"

"If you share all your information with us."

Teren gave a hollow laugh. "Right. I give him information, he lets it slip to the wrong person, and I'm the next person getting their ass blown to hell. I don't think so."

Alex could see her point. She searched for a way to bridge the distance between their positions.

"Okay. Let me give you a little bit of what we know. George Mather, Kyle Brogan, Darryl Wilford and Derek White knew each other. We can prove that."

Teren just nodded.

"Because of his involvement in right wing extremist groups, the FBI keeps a general surveillance on White. We know he's been visiting a lot of different cities. Unfortunately, we don't know how, or if, his travels tie into the conspiracy. We also don't know why he would suddenly change his mind and kill his killers before they finished their job. Now, the letter that went to the Post said that at least five people would die, after Max Rhodes.Three have, and we know Mather and Wilford were responsible for two of them. That leaves at least two more killings that are supposed to occur."

Another nod.

"We also know Darryl Wilford was spending a lot of money, but I can't trace where it came from. He made huge deposits into his bank account but it was always in cash. There were no electronic transfers."

Teren gazed at her steadily. Alex was running out of things to say.

"We've got Brogan under surveillance, and we're hoping he'll crack. We're also looking at a clothes company that White is involved in --"


Alex paused. "Yes."

Teren nodded. "Take a close look at Kittredge. And not just at how it's connected to White, but others that are linked to it as well. Look at the money, closely."

Alex raised an eyebrow. "You know something about the company?"

"I know it makes fine clothes for men. I also know that for the amount it spends on materials, it makes very few fine clothes for men."

"Really." Teren nodded. "And I should follow the money?"


Alex took the tip seriously. "Thank you."

Another nod.

"I wish I could give you a tip as well, but I've already told you everything we have. We're waiting for reports on a few places we know Wilford visited, but I have no idea if any of them will pan out."

Teren sighed again. "So, what resources was Agent Jackson willing to share?"

"I'm not sure. You said you needed someone with access to records. What records are you looking for?"

"Financial. Transactions from a bank account in the Cayman Islands. It was closed just after the fiasco in Europe. I want to know where the money came from, and what happened to it."

"Whose account was it?"


Alex nodded. "Do you have the account number?" At Teren's nod, she asked, "Will you give it to me?"

It took a moment, but finally Teren nodded again. She pulled a pen from the sun visor, and a notepad from the side pocket on the door. After a minute she handed a paper to Alex. Alex reached for it, and Teren pulled it away.

"I'm trusting you to share what you learn, Alex."

"Whatever I learn you'll learn. I promise."

She took the paper and slid it into the pocket inside her jacket. "Is there a number where I can get in touch with you?"

"I'll call you. If you don't want to wait you can always leave a message with Margo. I'll get back to you."

"Right. I'll check this out tomorrow, and let you know what I find."


Alex reached for the door handle. Teren turned the headlights on, and watched Alex climb out of the car.

She turned and looked back. "Thanks for trusting me, Teren."

Teren looked at her. "Just remember, Alex. It's a chess game. Defend and attack. You have to risk something if you want to win."

"And you never lose, do you Teren?"

"Only once, Alex. And I won't let it happen again."

The last sentence was spoken in a dead voice, and it chilled Alex more than the weather ever could. She nodded once more, then closed the car door. She could once again feel Teren's eyes on her back as she walked up to the front door. Once she was inside, Teren drove away. Alex breathed a sigh of relief and took the stairs to go to her apartment.

She was changing her clothes when she realized she'd forgotten to tell Teren about Perry Watson's bank accounts.


Teren watched the front door close behind Alex, and then pulled away from the curb. It would be a long drive to her condo, and she settled in, turning the radio on. But she couldn't get the conversation out of her head.

Attack and defend. Risk and protect. She had truly felt she could trust the FBI agent, and had therefore taken a risk by sharing the account number with her. Teren had no idea where the money might have gone, but she did know where it had come from. The problem was, if certain people knew she was aware of it, she would find a bomb under her car one day. That was the reason she had hesitated to share the number with Alex.

If the wrong people found Alex sniffing around the account, the agent could be in a lot of danger.

Risk and protect. Sharing the account number with Agent Reis had been a risk, but Teren couldn't decide who for.



Continues in Chapter Ten

Return to Main Page