Today's Reading

Faith followed Dale out the door and down the hall to the buzzing conference room. The chatter ceased when they entered. Faith glanced at the faces now focused on Dale. Word had spread, and the typical Monday morning banter had been replaced with stone-faced tension.

Dale took his place at the front of the room. "Sit."

Should she sit? Did Dale expect her to stand up front with him? For an awkward moment, Faith hesitated in the door before sliding into a chair along the wall.

Two dead. Michael and Jared. Not Luke.

Two injured. Who?

She tried to concentrate on Dale's words, but her gaze was drawn to her coworkers. The grief and shock settling on their expressions. The swiped tears everyone pretended not to notice. The clenched fists. The muttered expletives.

"Details are thin," Dale said. "Michael Weaver was at the gym and dropped during his run. Initial indicators said it was a heart attack, but a paramedic on the scene noticed a puncture mark. Someone shot him with a dart. We still don't know what was in it."

Dale pulled a sheet of paper from the folder. "Jared Smith's condo exploded this morning. There might be no reason to assume foul play, except for the fact that Michael's...dead"—Dale paused on the word and then pulled himself together to continue—"and two other agents, Zane Thacker and Luke Powell, were shot this morning and their cars were blown up. Both men are being treated for their injuries but are expected to make a full recovery."

Faith's ears buzzed. Luke Powell? Shot? Treated for injuries? What kind of injuries? "Expected to make a full recovery" didn't necessarily mean that he wasn't in bad shape at the moment.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we have no idea why, but our brothers and sisters at the Secret Service came under attack this morning. The FBI has jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed against the Secret Service, and I've tasked Special Agent Malone with the lead. You will give her your full and devoted cooperation. I shouldn't need to say this, but in case some of you aren't playing with a full deck, let me remind you. If someone's attacking our brethren at the Secret Service, we could very well be next in their sights. Let's find out who did this. Why they did this. And get justice for our friends. Dismissed."

"Agent Malone." Dale's words were not a request but a command.

"Yes, sir."

"You need it, you've got it."

"Thank you, sir."

"My advice? Start with Jared's place. Then the gym where Michael was killed. Then the spot where Powell and Thacker were shot. Maybe by the time you're done, one of them will be conscious."

Faith bristled at the unnecessary advice. She knew how to run an investigation better than anyone else in this office, and Dale knew it. Did he trust her with this case or not? She considered calling him out on it, but then she saw the sheen in Dale's eyes. This was personal for him.

It was personal for her too. "Yes, sir. I'll keep you in the loop."

Faith half jogged to her cubicle. She filled her bag with her iPad, Apple pencil, extra battery, charging cables, and voice recorder.

"I guess congratulations are in order." Janice was anything but pleased.

What was her deal?

Faith didn't respond while she rummaged through the side desk drawer. Where was her— There. Her fingers wrapped around a container of breath mints. She tucked them into her bag and scanned the other contents. Did she have everything she needed for the day? Who knew when she'd be back in the office.

Janice continued to hover, but Faith had no time for her junk. She lifted her laptop from the middle of her desk, looped her keys onto one finger, and turned to the door. "Gotta run." She tossed the words over her shoulder.

"Break a leg," Janice called after her. It sounded friendly. It wasn't.

Faith's phone rang thirty seconds after she pulled out of the parking lot.

Dale. Probably with more advice she didn't need.

She answered through her car's Bluetooth. "Malone."

"Change of plans." Dale didn't give her a chance to respond or ask questions. "Go to the Secret Service office. They've evacuated the building." Click.
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