Cut & Run
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by Madeleine Urban, Abigail Roux
Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Cut & Run Series: Book One
A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case.
Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He's cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he's paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it's hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliché: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple. They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer.
Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again -- this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer's knife.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
197 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [651 KB]
Reading time: 416-582 min.
Allison McFadden walked slowly in the cool night air, her arms tightly wrapped around her slim body to keep the wind from whipping at her coat. The man with her saw her shiver and gently put his arm around her, sending an electric jolt of anticipation through her.
She laughed softly, slightly giddy from the dirty martinis he had bought for her all night. He'd actually taken her to Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel; it was possibly the most romantic place she had ever been, complete with live piano music and a sophisticated, old-fashioned ambiance that had seduced her just as completely as he had.
He was witty and charming, and he was good-looking and chivalrous almost to a fault. He hadn't even stolen a kiss yet.
Allison smiled as she remembered how he'd taken her up to the murals that lined the walls of Bemelmans and told her about them; how some writer who had lived in the hotel had painted them and they'd been part of some children's books. She had tried to listen, but she had only been able to concentrate on his hand, resting just a little lower on her back than it had been earlier in the evening, and his lips moving next to her cheek as he spoke. She only remembered that the paintings were of animals in Central Park. There had been an elephant skating. And he had pointed out an armed rabbit stalking its fellow bunnies with an automatic weapon in one of the cartoon-like murals.
They'd both laughed at the morbid humor of it, and Allison loved the way he laughed.
Now, he was walking her home, like a true gentleman. He had asked the cab driver to stop several blocks away from her building to have the privilege of doing so. It was only their first date, and Allison couldn't believe that she was going to do what she was planning.
"Do you ... would you ... I mean, would you like to come up? For coffee, or...."
He smiled, and Allison was lost in the way it made his eyes warmer. He reached up and ran his hands through her hair, watching the way the blond strands glimmered in the artificial light of the street lamps.
"Is your roommate home?" he asked her softly, his intimate voice cutting through the chilly wind and right into her.
She licked her lips and nodded. "But she won't bother us," she insisted quickly, her words almost breathless as she reached out and smoothed her hand over his lapel, feeling his badge under the material.
"Then lead the way," he murmured with a smile.
It would have been the perfect time for him to kiss her, she thought, as she took his hand and led him into the building. It would have been just as ridiculously romantic as the rest of the night. But, she supposed, nothing could be perfect.
Hours later, as Allison struggled for her last breath, she couldn't help but wonder if he'd never kissed her because it would leave his DNA behind.
* * * *
The phone call could not have come at a worse time. FBI Special Agent Ty Grady was still pissed off and cursing about its unfortunate timing two days later as he sat alone in his living room.
Four weeks of undercover work--round-the-clock surveillance, phone taps, wires, bribing informants, and some high-speed tailing--all shot to shit because some rookie hotshot forgot to leave his cell phone at home. Bums begging on the street do not ring to the tune of a Mozart orchestra, and unfortunately for the team of tired undercover FBI agents tailing Antonio de la Vega, their target was aware of that particular bit of random information. He'd disappeared just as quickly as the rats on the New York sidewalks as Ty and his team had scrambled.
The operation had been blown, their target was now in some other country where they had no jurisdiction, and all their evidence would be bagged, tagged, and stuffed in a box in a basement, never to be seen again. The fact that most of what they'd done had been under Ty's direction and slightly irregular, depending on a high-profile collar in order to keep them from getting their asses fired and thrown in jail, was not helping Ty's mental state.
He sprawled on his sofa, still covered in sweat from his attempts to work out his frustration at the Bureau's Baltimore gym, and stared out at the city through the large windows on either side of the television. He could see his own reflection in the black screen of the plasma TV on the opposite wall, and he looked even more exhausted than he felt. He needed a shave; most of his handsome face was covered in three days' worth of beard, and his dark hair could probably use a trim. He was a large man, nearly three inches over six feet, and he usually carried his frame like a large cat, lithe and easy. Tonight, though, there was a slump to his broad shoulders as he sprawled. He had no intention of moving any time soon.
Not until his cell phone began to trill demandingly. With a heavy sigh, he snapped it off his waistband and flipped it open. "Grady," he answered curtly, his West Virginia drawl still pronounced after all the years he'd spent away from home.
"Special Agent Grady, Assistant Director Burns would like to see you," a clipped, professional voice informed him.
"When?" Ty asked flatly.
"Special Agent Grady, the Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigations Branch does not call to make appointments. He expects you in thirty minutes."
"Thirty minutes!" Ty blurted. "Do you have any idea where I am?"
"In your dirty underwear, no doubt. Be here in thirty," the voice answered in the same flat, businesslike tone before hanging up.
Ty closed his eyes and mentally kicked something. Thirty minutes to get into DC was going to require the flashy blue lights. Ty fucking hated the flashy blue lights.
* * * *
"Great job, Special Agent Garrett. You are a credit to the Bureau," the Division Director said as he shook the man's hand. "A commendation will go in your file for your work, of course."
"Thank you, sir," FBI Special Agent Zane Garrett answered curtly as the other agents murmured quiet, slightly reluctant congratulations.
"And I get to reward you for your work well-done," the Director continued smoothly. "You're being promoted out of the division. I'm very sad to see you go," he said smoothly, still pumping Zane's hand vigorously.
Zane shook his hand somberly, his face a mask of pure professionalism that covered the brutally honest thoughts he harbored beneath it. "I've enjoyed working for you, sir. But you know me; always looking to be where I can do the most for the Bureau."
"That's a good man. Say goodbye and get yourself upstairs. Assistant Director Burns wants to see you in ten."
Showing no hint of a smile--or the disdain for the praise over doing his boring-ass desk job--Zane turned and walked through the other agents he'd worked with in the division that pursued cybercrimes. He'd gotten along with them fairly well, considering he did his job, and sometimes theirs as well, with complete and utter focus. Zane knew many of his co-workers were just as happy to see him go as stay; his strict adherence to the rules and logical, single-minded work to achieve his goals were often tiring to those around him. He had goals, several of them, and they were all that mattered. None of them included working with this division any longer than necessary.
Looking around the open office, Zane knew with complete certainty he wouldn't miss it. While his obsessive attention to detail had steered him perfectly while on these assignments, he knew he was worth far more to the Bureau than serving on this mind-numbing, numbers-crunching detail. Now he would get his chance to prove it.
Shaking some hands and enduring a few "so sorry to see you go" back slaps, he waved off his soon-to-be-former co-workers, told the office administrator he would be back later to clear out his desk, and walked out the door. He looked forward to seeing what the Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Branch had in store for him. He had worked damn hard for this promotion. It had to be good, since the man wanted to see him immediately.
Zane stopped into the bathroom to straighten his tie and check to make sure his close-cropped brown hair lay down neatly. The suit he wore was sharply tailored to his 6'5" frame, but it didn't hide the bulky muscles that moved under the fabric. His was not a body you'd expect to see riding a desk, a fact he was reminded of daily looking at the slightly pudgy agents who worked around him. He frowned slightly, surveying the crow's-feet at the corners of his eyes and the ridges of his twice-broken nose. With a displeased twitch, he ran his hands over his close-shaven cheeks and dismissed his image before buttoning his suit jacket and heading upstairs.
* * * *
The secretary gave Ty Grady a look over her glasses that clearly said she disapproved of the air he breathed. She lifted her chin and looked him up and down, wrinkling her nose at his appearance. "You're early," she announced with a touch of surprise to her voice.
Ty looked her up and down in return and cocked his head to the side. "I used the flashy blue lights," he told her with a helicopter motion of his finger.
She sniffed as she glanced over his unshaven face, scuffed leather jacket, jeans, and dirty cowboy boots. His T-shirt seemed to be particularly appalling to her sensibilities, even though it was clean. It was black and had the words Cocke County FBI in large white print on the front. Upon closer inspection, there were smaller words between the larger ones, and when she squinted she was able to read the entire shirt: "I was probed in Cocke County by the FBI." She made a small, insulted noise as she looked back up at him. Ty ignored her, leaving her looking slightly scandalized as he headed for the Assistant Director's door.
"You can't go in there yet!" she hissed as she stood from her desk and pointed at him.
He stopped at the door and turned around to look at her, blatantly putting his hand on the door handle and pushing it down with a smirk. Her mouth worked soundlessly, and she turned and scrambled for her intercom to announce him before he could get inside.
Assistant Director Richard Burns looked up at him in surprise and annoyance as Ty stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. "You wanted to see me, sir," Ty greeted, the words perfectly professional, but the tone somehow just as insolent as it always was.
"Sit down," the man ordered with a jab of his pen at one of the seats across from his desk. "We're waiting for one more person."
Ty moved to the seat and sat, his leather jacket sending up a tiny little cloud of dust as he flopped into the seat. He did a fairly good job of concealing his surprise. "Someone else?" he inquired evenly. "Am I being lynched?"
"If you keep your mouth shut for the next thirty minutes, you may not spend the night in jail. How about that?" Burns answered seriously without looking up from the papers he was signing.
Ty cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
* * * *
Zane Garrett entered the wide outer office to see the Assistant Director's secretary scurrying around her desk, obviously flustered. He paused, folding his hands behind his back. "Ma'am?" he asked politely when she didn't notice his entrance.
She looked up at him in surprise. "Special Agent Garrett, thank you for being prompt," she said, looking him up and down and nodding in approval of the tailored blue suit and silk tie. "You may go in now."
"Thank you, ma'am," he said evenly, proceeding to the door as she announced him through the intercom.
Burns looked up from the papers he was shuffling and gestured him in. "Come in, Special Agent Garrett. We've got some things to thrash out," he said to Zane, with a narrow-eyed look at the man sitting slumped in a chair in front of the desk.
"Yes, sir," Zane answered, moving to sit as the Director gestured. His eyes followed Burns' gaze. Only a blink betrayed Zane's surprise. The unkempt man sitting opposite Burns was a complete mess. Zane barely restrained the urge to sneer at him. Maybe he was an informant of some sort. He had that burnt-out, fidgety look to him.
Focusing on Burns again, Zane waited, composed and attentive, ready to start jumping through the next set of hoops.
Ty shifted in his seat, slouching further down and glancing over at the new man. God, the guy looked like he had just come off a printing press or something. "What are you doing, a how-to manual?" Ty asked the Assistant Director sarcastically. "Before and after?" he suggested wryly with a gesture at himself and then at the other man.
"Yes. You are sitting here before you get fired," Burns answered studiously. "And he is taking your job after you leave."
Ty pressed his lips tightly together and looked down at the shiny desktop sedately. Zane shifted his eyes between the man and Burns before narrowing them. He wondered why he had been asked to sit in on this meeting when the guy was obviously being fired. It seemed overly cruel. He clamped down hard on any further reaction and waited to see what would happen.
Ty licked his lips and looked up again to meet his superior's eyes almost defiantly.
"Fortunately for you, Grady, you have more lives than a cat," the man said to him with a small frown. "And you're getting another chance to prove to us that you can do this job without blowing shit up. I won't say one more, because God knows I'll just keep giving you more until you get yourself killed. Meet your new partner, Special Agent Zane Z. Garrett."
Zane couldn't have been more appalled, and it showed clearly in his reaction. This wreck of an agent was his new partner? "Director Burns," he started impulsively, but he caught his tongue and tightened his grip on the chair. What kind of reward was this?
"The hell he is!" Ty interrupted as he sat up straight. "I can't do my job with a ... a ... poster-boy partner," he practically stuttered angrily as he flopped his hand toward the squeaky-clean man next to him.
"And you can't do it without a partner, either, Special Agent Grady," Burns responded with a hard glare.
"Sir, it seems obvious," Zane said, not bothering to keep any edge of disapproval out of his voice, "that this agent needs more than I can possibly provide to help him. Frankly, it will take a miracle to make him even remotely professional. No one will take him seriously."
"Take me seriously?" Ty echoed in disbelief. "Christ, have those shoes ever even seen pavement? Shit," he exclaimed in a sudden panic as he gripped the arms of his chair and leaned forward. "Are you sending me to Cyber?" he asked Burns, who was sitting behind the desk and grinning like a small child at Christmas.
"Your tone of voice implies that investigating technological crime and terrorism might be below you," Zane said to him coldly as he leveled an even gaze on the other agent. "Perhaps you should consider requesting a transfer to professional staff. Or submitting your resignation altogether."
"Hey, fuck you, candy ass," Ty snarled without looking over at him.
"Quiet, both of you!" Burns barked suddenly. "Grady, you're staying in Criminal until you get your ass killed or do something so illegal even I can't cover for you, understand? Garrett, you're to make certain he doesn't do either of those things. Is that clear? And you will both like it."
Ty's eyes widened as he realized he was being assigned a bookkeeping babysitter, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it. His stomach turned at the thought, but he supposed it was better than being fired. Or being in jail.
The thought of being attached to this troublemaking loose cannon was nearly enough to make Zane lose his composure. After all he'd done, all he'd worked for, this was all he was going to get. Despair threatened for a moment, and he had to take a deep breath to push it aside. He wanted to rail at Burns, but it wasn't his place to object. He'd make the best of this clusterfuck, and then leave this agent behind, just as he had the Cyber Division. That or go down in spectacular flames.
"Yes, sir," he acknowledged through clenched teeth.
"I expect you to learn from each other," Burns instructed, his heart going out to Zane Garrett. It was a shitty thing to do to him, sticking him with a man like Ty Grady after he'd worked his way back up from hell to be Cyber's top performing agent. But for this particular case, these two men were unusually qualified. "And the Bureau expects you to perform efficiently on your next assignment," he added as he tossed a file across the desk at Ty.
"Respectfully, sir, I understand you need someone riding herd on this ... agent," Zane gritted out. "But what am I supposed to learn from him?" he asked, slanting a disbelieving look Grady's way.
Burns gave Ty a dubious glance and then shrugged apologetically in answer to Zane's query. He was well-acquainted with Garrett's past, but the man was resourceful. He'd had to be. He'd find a way to make this work.
"You can learn to kiss my ass," Ty shot back as he fumbled with the file his boss had chucked at him. "Just like you do everyone else's," he muttered.
Zane's temper lightened in the face of Grady's ridiculous assertions, leaving behind more than a trace of resentment. He would have rolled his eyes if he weren't aware of how it might be construed. The man's language was complete and purposeful insubordination. It looked like his new partner was a real prize, one that had somehow gained the favor of the Assistant Director of his new division--just as he himself was the focus of Burns' ire.
"Sir, if I may ask, who is this delightful new person I'll be calling my partner?" he asked, the sarcasm thinly veiled.
"Special Agent B. Tyler Grady," Burns answered as Ty scanned the file he had flipped open, ignoring them both as he looked through it. "Despite his appearance, he is unfortunately very good at his job."
"You're putting us on the Tri-State case?" Ty asked suddenly, utter disbelief coloring his words as he looked up at Burns.
Zane stiffened and inhaled sharply. He knew all about the Tri-State case. Hell, everyone in the Bureau knew all about the Tri-State case, even though they had only been working it for a few weeks. A really messy, really conniving, really frightening serial killer kept popping up and going to ground every few weeks--for almost two months now--in New York City. Two bodies were found just across state lines, near the Tri-State marker, and most involved seemed to think the killer deliberately left them there to involve the FBI. Most recently, just days ago, the man took out two of their own agents, so the Bureau was now more personally invested.
Zane's eyes shifted back to Grady. Very good at his job, Burns had said. Zane decided it must have been undercover work. Drugs or organized crime, maybe import/export. Somewhere that rough-and-tumble image would fit in. His mind started to buzz, calculating how their skill sets might complement each other. Or not.
"That's right," Burns answered with a tap of his pen on his desk. "And you will report to the New York field office--appropriately attired, Grady--at eleven-hundred Monday. Is that clear?"
Recognizing the dismissal and standing, Zane nodded. "Yes, sir," he said curtly. Zane's most recent tour may have been spent in a high-tech computer lab, but that wasn't all he could do. He was a damn good agent, and he knew it. But he couldn't help thinking of Tyler Grady as a snake that might strike at a critical moment and poison his fragile job security. He could already tell this wasn't going to be easy. Actually, he could already tell it was going to be beyond hard as hell. But while there was the chance that one whiff of the bat could collapse his carefully reconstructed career like a house of cards, he also had a prime opportunity here. If he could make this work it would send him a long way. And he wouldn't let any scruffy agent who fancied himself a badass get in his way.
Ty sat and stared at Burns for a long moment before standing and stepping toward the desk. He put two hands on the desk and leaned over, crumpling the file in his hand as he glared down at his boss. "You know me better than this, Dick," he murmured. "My partners don't last long."
"This one had better," Burns responded without blinking at the insubordinate tone.
"You promised me," Ty murmured accusingly.
"Consider it recanted," Burns replied unapologetically. "Go home and shower, Ty. You fucking stink."
The voices were low, but Zane heard enough. Burns' parting shot was clear, and Zane's lips twitched as he turned to lead the way. This Ty Grady must be some kind of special superstar for the Assistant Director to put up with that behavior. That or he was blowing someone further up the chain, Zane thought uncharitably. He allowed himself a slight grimace when he stopped in the outer office. He'd heard the same rumors about himself at one time. More than a few times.
Ty followed him and glared at Zane for a long moment as the secretary sniffed disapprovingly at him. "Sooner we get this over with, sooner we can go back to how it was. Got it?" he finally said to his new partner.
Zane didn't dignify the utterance with a reply. "May I see the case file, please?" he asked civilly.
"Get your own," Ty answered as he turned and stalked out of the office.
Zane stood there for a moment, mouth slightly agape. Ty Grady was a rude, insufferable, egotistical, stinking son of a bitch, and Zane was going to need to figure out how to tune him out. Otherwise, he just might give in to the pressure and kill the bastard, for the good of humanity.
* * * *
Ty sat at the all-night diner near his apartment and read the file for the fourteenth time as he poked at his bacon and eggs. The papers had greasy fingerprints on them, and a few smudges that weren't identifiable, but Ty didn't notice. What he was seeing were the facts of the case. It was one of the most fascinating cases he'd ever read about, much less been involved in. The killer seemed to pick his targets at random; there was no victim type at all. He had no MO to speak of, and he left little to no evidence behind. The current belief was that the little evidence that had been collected was left intentionally, and the scenes where the bodies were found were certainly staged.
Eight murders and counting. The only two that hadn't been positioned after death (or killed creatively, as Ty thought of it) were the two FBI agents who had been investigating the murders. Two trained agents, both with military backgrounds, shot point-blank in their hotel room before either man could even fire a weapon. And the only reason the Bureau attributed their deaths to the killer was because they were working on his case, and the FBI didn't believe in coincidences.
Ty shook his head and sighed, glancing at his watch with a blink. "Fuck," he groaned, digging in his pocket for money to leave on the table as he gathered his highly classified information and unceremoniously stuffed it under his jacket. He had things to do tomorrow--today, really--before he had to fly out early Monday morning.
* * * *
Zane sat at his dining room table, a whole stack of copied files spread out in front of him. Case details, reports, autopsy recalls, scene photographs, forensic evidence ... there was so much to read through, so many details. Details that caught and filtered through Zane's analytical mind. He'd been sifting through notes for hours trying to identify patterns, not in the case itself, but in the standard structure of investigation: where it was followed precisely, where it differed, where there were gaps in the investigation, where there was too much useless information. There'd been so many people on this job that it was already a mess.
All of that, he thought, as he shifted to take a bite of a late Sunday dinner of chicken and grape salad, was easy enough to track. He'd already decided to give a few specialty agents a call to ask questions; maybe Serena Scott in New York's Behavior Analysis Unit could help. She looked at murders all the time, and although this case was driving them crazy, she could explain some things for Zane. Murder wasn't exactly his forte. Plus, she owed him a favor.
A man didn't work at the FBI for nearly twenty years and not collect favors.
Sighing, he pushed away the coroner's reports comparison chart he'd made and carried his bowl to the kitchen sink, washing it out carefully before wiping the counter down. He glanced at the clock on the wall, straightened his shoulders, and cracked his neck. He'd have to leave extra early to get from Arlington to Dulles by 0530 to catch the plane. And he'd need every bit of patience and fortitude he could scrape up to get through what he knew was coming.
* * * *
It was a commercial flight, and the tickets were waiting for them at the airline's front desk. Ty rolled his head from side to side and loosened his tie, grumbling unhappily as he walked in the hazy predawn through the parking lot. He had his suit jacket over one arm and two duffel bags of clothing and gear slung over his shoulder. He carried a beaten and scarred leather satchel by a strap across his chest as he walked. He was running just a little late, but he wasn't exactly worried about it. When he got inside, his tie askew and his suit coat wrinkled, he finally pulled the satchel over his head and plunked everything down to shrug into the jacket. He then hefted everything again, repositioned the bags, and made his way to the check-in desk.
"I knew you'd be late," Zane commented as Ty walked past him.
"And I knew you'd still have that stick up your ass," Ty responded with a shake of his head, not slowing as Zane spoke to him.
Ty's smart-ass response didn't rate a reply. Zane waited for him to get his ticket and check his bags before falling in beside him to walk to security. They'd met a total of two times now, and Zane had the same fleeting impression: Ty was an asshole who'd been lucky enough in the red zone to make it this far. And the Bureau wanted him to be lucky some more, but they didn't want to risk anything going wrong (because Ty was so very obviously insane), and that was why the very efficient Zane Garrett was charged with holding his leash.
It made Zane tired just thinking about it.
They showed their identification and were waved through security after a brief check. Still thinking about Ty's shit-for-attitude, Zane amused himself by thinking about what Ty must have had to do to pass muster. All agents went through the academy's sixteen-week New Agents Training Unit, and then they were farmed out and specialized. Because of his background, Zane excelled in the finer points of the law. Layers of information. Patterns. Details. Puzzles. It surprised people that Zane had a brain to go with his brawn, and he'd used it to his benefit many times.
Way back when, the Bureau assigned him to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Criminal Investigations Branch, working on financial crime. As he got more cases under his belt, he shifted to organized crime and informant matters, which put him into a brief stint in undercover work. Several personal and professional swerves and wild dives later, he was moved out of the CID and into the Cyber Division, digging up and dusting off those old pattern and detail skills to reestablish himself and hopefully polish his very tarnished reputation. He tried not to think about that tarnish often.
He was starting to suspect Ty Grady possessed a completely different set of specializations, and Zane was absolutely sure that they wouldn't mesh with his own. Looking over his new partner, Zane decided immediately that Ty obviously wouldn't have any trouble with the physical side of the job. He was an inch or two shorter than Zane, but his muscle weight probably equaled Zane's own. He was physically impressive, no doubt, and together they were clearly intimidating as they walked through the terminal.
It was the mental aspects of Ty's abilities that Zane pondered almost gleefully as they moved. Zane wondered if Ty would even be able to handle any of it, or if that was why Zane had been partnered with the guy; to be the brains of the operation, so to speak.
"Listen up, 'cause I'm only gonna say this once," Ty muttered as they walked to their gate. "I don't talk when I fly. I sleep. And I don't listen when I eat, understand? I don't wanna be buddies. I don't wanna chat," he said with a sarcastic lilt to the word. "I don't wanna know about your childhood or how your momma whipped you with a rubber glove or how much therapy you had to go through 'cause you flunked out of preschool. I don't wanna hear about how you want to be Director someday or how many collars you got chasin' those Internet freaks or how proud you are of your bowel movements. I don't wanna go shopping at Barney's with you, and I'm not gonna help you pick out your ties to match your socks and, I swear to God, if you get me shot, I'll kill you."
As he followed the other agent onto the plane and found his seat, stoic demeanor in place, Zane couldn't decide whether to be offended, upset, or just sad. Punching his new partner would likely not be condoned, and he wasn't sure Grady wouldn't give as good as he got just to cause a scene. But what a miserable life the man must have. Well, he wasn't the only one who had had it hard. Zane tried hard to sublimate the anger that line of thought caused, but so far, Ty just made him want to reach out and throttle the shit out of him. Wouldn't the Bureau just love that?
He decided it was best--for all parties involved--to ignore the man beside him. He went ahead and pulled out the comparative chart he'd made of the coroner's information with notes all over it in his tiny, crablike handwriting. At least some of the time could be well-spent.
Ty sighed heavily as he flopped into his seat and shook his head as he dug out the seat belt. His brand new partner had failed the first test. Anyone who would quietly take the vitriol he had just spewed without so much as a "fuck you" in return was nothing but a brown-nosing ladder-climber who should have been riding a desk or working in the civilian market. At least his last partner had given as good as he got, he thought with a wince.
Zane heard the annoyed exhalation and ignored it. He gritted his teeth and wished there was some way to get out of this assignment. It was going to be an utter debacle, and he likely wouldn't be able to do anything about it. He wondered what ninth level of clerking hell he would be demoted to if this went wrong, or what type of civilian job he could get after he was kicked out of the Bureau. That upset him more than anything, thinking of all the years going to waste.
The flight was only about an hour long, and Ty planned to sit there and sleep the entire fucking way. The kid kicking the seat behind him was the only thing keeping him awake as the plane taxied down the runway. He turned around and peered through the coach seats, his hazel eyes piercing the kid as he narrowed them.
"Kick it one more time, and I'll rip your toes off and eat 'em," he promised.
"Have some decency," Zane chastised as his head turned to the side to check the situation. "He's gotta be three. He doesn't know any better."
"He does now," Ty countered as he turned back around and settled into his seat contentedly. Behind him a horrified young mother was holding her son's toes and gaping, wide-eyed and speechless.
"You have absolutely no people skills," Zane muttered, shaking his head. "No wonder you're sinking fast in the Bureau."
"Yeah, I'm a real anchor," Ty drawled as he leaned his head back and smiled. "I hear no one else will work with you."
Zane's lips pressed together slightly and he didn't look up from his paperwork. "You should have your hearing checked," he said flatly.
"My hearing's just fine, Skippy. You were 'promoted,' right?" Ty asked sarcastically, giving the word quotations with his fingers without opening his eyes. "Hate to tell you, Sport, but being transferred to another division in the same level ain't a promotion. It's called shuffling the unwanted."
"Reliable information, I'm sure, from someone on a landslide down the ladder."
"We both seem to be on the slip 'n' slide to the gutter, Shuffleboard," Ty observed happily. "Difference is, I don't give a shit," he offered as he reached up and turned off the overhead light and adjusted the cool air blowing down on him.
Zane didn't reply, instead closing his eyes for a moment to swallow down on the flare of annoyance. It was true. Ty didn't give a shit. But Zane did, which meant they were destined to be at each other's throats the whole time they were forced to work together.
Ty merely snickered quietly, knowing he had hit a chord. This could provide some amusement after all, he decided, even if they did end up killing each other.
Zane focused again on the notes. The rest of the flight passed in silence. Details about the deaths bounced around in his head, not really settling into any sort of pattern yet. He would dig the photos out and study them once they got settled. Maybe he could get a feeling for each victim.
He glanced up when the seat-belt light went on, and he looked over at Ty unhappily. The other man had dozed lightly in expectation of the long day ahead, and Zane decided that Ty sleeping was him at his most charming. But now he had to wake him up.
"Grady," he muttered, voice clipped.
"Not again, sugar, m'tired," Ty muttered as he flopped onto his side and jostled them both in the cramped seats.
Unamused, Zane pushed against the other man. "Grady," he said more insistently. "Wake up."
Ty huffed and opened his eyes slowly, looking around sleepily. "Hmm?"
Zane looked down at him, mildly surprised by the momentary drop in the rough attitude. "We're getting ready to land," he murmured.
Ty groaned softly and rolled onto his back again. He stretched his arms high over his head, yawning as he turned his body slightly and reached one arm way out into the aisle. The air hostess who was making her last check down the aisle walked right into his hand and gasped as he grabbed her. Ty dropped his arms and twisted to look up at her. "Sorry, sweetheart," he offered with a small, unrepentant smile.
She huffed slightly and gave him a wry smile as she turned in the aisle. "I've had worse," she murmured in response as she bent and slowly buckled his seat belt for him. "Put yourself in the upright position, please," she said to him softly before moving away. Ty raised his seat obediently and grinned, watching her with a contented smirk as she turned and continued on down the aisle.
While Zane silently envied Ty's free attitude and behavior, in the end, he just couldn't believe the man's gall. "How did you become such a total ass?" he asked, morbidly curious.
Ty cocked his head and watched the woman until she took her seat, then turned to look at Zane. "I didn't mean to," he insisted innocently. "C cups can get in the way."
Zane's look was patently disbelieving. "I think you decide what a perfectly polite person would do and then do the absolute opposite. It's like it's your life's goal to be the Antichrist."
"The Antichrist," Ty echoed, laughing as he shook his head. "Yeah. I bet you were head of the Drama Club in school, weren't you?"
"You didn't deny it."
"And Lord knows I mean everything I say," Ty responded with mock sincerity, pressing his hand to his heart and leaning closer to Zane earnestly.
"You just have that look," Zane confirmed, face stilled to passivity.
Ty chuckled and turned to look back at the front of the plane as the wheels squealed on the tarmac and the plane decelerated rapidly. "You're gonna have to dislodge that stick up your ass pretty damn quick if we're going to be working together," he added as the plane taxied to their gate. He unbuckled before the seat-belt light went off and rolled his neck.
"What's the matter? Afraid it's catching?" Zane asked. His patience was already wearing thin. He didn't have the time or the luxury to deal with Ty's antics.
"No, I'm not afraid of turning into you," Ty answered wryly, laughing softly as he shook his head. He leaned closer to Zane, almost close enough to touch his cheek with his nose. "You smell like Feeb," he explained in a low, serious voice. He was probably one of the only FBI agents who would actually utter the derogatory term other agencies used when talking about them.
When Zane turned his gaze on the other agent, his eyes glinted dangerously. His voice was frigid. "I bet you get off on it."
Ty smiled slowly, his eyes glittering mischievously. "If I did, would you change?" he asked.
Zane merely shook his head as if he felt sorry for the other man, deciding not to comment as he stood. The words on his tongue were certainly ungracious and unbecoming, and he couldn't afford it being reported. Not that his would rival Ty's behavior.
Ty shrugged and stretched to retrieve his satchel from the overhead bin. He didn't say another word as he followed the short line to the front of the plane and the exit. The stewardess stood there, smiling and saying goodbye to each passenger, and when Ty came up to her he grinned widely and nodded at her cheekily.
"You have a nice stay in New York, sir," she said to him as she reached out and took his hand, discreetly pressing a piece of paper into his palm.
"Oh, it's getting nicer already," Ty responded brightly as he lingered there for a moment, looking her over rakishly, and then moved on to the exit.
"And just how is your image supposed to represent the Bureau better than mine?" Zane asked under his breath as they walked toward the concourse.
"It's not," Ty answered over his shoulder. "That's the whole damn point, Shuffleboard."
With his long legs, Zane easily caught up to walk alongside him. "So why the hell work for the Bureau at all if you don't give a damn?"
"'Cause I ain't in it for the status," Ty answered blithely.
Zane stopped in his tracks, looking at Ty's back with real hatred. The implication that the glory was Zane's reason for working at the Bureau was way the hell over the line. He watched him walk away and seriously, seriously considered calling Burns and accepting whatever fucking demotion it would take to not have to deal with this bastard. His temper was already roiling, and that was not good. Not good at all. His hand clenched on his briefcase for a long moment as he stamped down on the anger, watching Ty walk toward the exit.
Ty knew Zane had fallen away, but he didn't stop walking. If the dickhead wanted to sulk his way into being late for their meeting, that was his business. Ty was looking out for Number One. As always.
He also had a slightly more personal interest in this particular case.
Zane finally exited the main terminal and stepped out into the cool air as Ty was climbing into a black government Tahoe. Within a minute, he was seated inside as well, and the truck left the curb and pulled out into the airport traffic.
Ty slumped in the backseat, trying to shake off the grogginess and think up new ways to annoy his new partner. He looked at the driver in the rearview mirror, seeing brown eyes and high cheekbones and short, curly hair. This guy was too pretty to be an agent. And he looked like he was about fifteen. The light-haired man in the passenger seat looked even younger. "What are you two, the Hardy Boys?" he asked them with a huff.
Eyes flickering forward, Zane took in the two agents in front of them and frowned.
"That's very clever of you, sir," the driver responded dryly without taking his eyes off the road. "I could point out that we're too young to know who the Hardy Boys are and make you feel very old," he added as his brown eyes glanced to the rearview mirror and looked back at Ty. "But I would never do that, sir."
Zane's lips twitched, but he didn't comment. His eyes displayed his amusement as he glanced a little more carefully over the two young men. They were both very young, but Zane knew that experienced agents were practically being churned out of preschools these days.
"Welcome to New York, Special Agent Garrett, Special Agent Grady," the passenger greeted as he turned slightly in his seat. "I'm Agent Mark Morrison, this is Agent Tim Henninger," he went on. His voice changed slightly to add a hint of sarcasm. "We're the lollipop boys sent to take care of you."
Ty narrowed his eyes and examined Morrison and then Henninger slowly. He turned his head and glanced at Zane critically. "I think that was supposed to be a cultural reference of some sort," he explained to his partner. "I don't get it," he huffed.
Zane snorted. "Big surprise," he murmured, almost under his breath.
Morrison leaned around the seat to look back at them. "We'll be your escorts and New York Field Office contacts while you're here. We're on the way to the office now to meet the Special Agent in Charge. Can we stop anywhere on the way? Food? Drink?"
"What, you didn't pack your lunch?" Ty asked sarcastically as he shifted around in the seat and wedged himself against the door. He kicked a foot up and propped it on the console between the two front seats.
"Sure, in my SpongeBob SquarePants lunch box. I have the thermos, too," Morrison shot right back.
Zane kept his mouth shut, eyes moving between the two men, and occasionally back to the driver, who was casually paying attention.
Ty stared at the kid and narrowed his eyes further. "Spongewhat?" he asked flatly.
Zane didn't even try to hold back the chuckle when Morrison looked at Ty like he'd lost his mind.
"Spongewha ... you're yanking my chain, aren't you?" Morrison said. "Henny, he's yanking my chain."
"Yeah, well, that's what you getting for waving it in his face," the driver answered reasonably.
"What the hell is a SpongeBob?" Ty asked Zane quietly in the backseat.
Zane turned his chin, taking a moment to gauge if Ty was serious and if he'd slam Zane for answering. "It's a cartoon character popular recently," he answered, voice low. He could see the driver's eyes in the rearview mirror again, watching them. Examining them.
Ty stared at Zane incredulously for a moment and then looked away with a shake of his head.
"Perhaps you prefer Scooby Doo?" Henninger offered politely.
"More like the Dark Knight," Zane muttered without thinking first.
Ty smirked and glanced over at the man. "Does that mean I can call you Robin from now on?" he asked with an amused glint in his eyes.
"That's Boy Wonder to you," Zane answered flatly, turning to look out the window as Morrison stared at them both.
"Ugh," Ty grunted as he looked away again and propped his other foot up on the center console. "You're too easy," he grumbled disconsolately.
Zane barely restrained a snicker as Morrison blinked. The young agent looked at his partner. "Well, we got the right two guys," he said grimly. He turned to look back at the two older men suspiciously. "They told us this was your first time working together, and that you'd probably not be too fond of each other."
"They were right," Ty and Zane both answered, practically in unison.
"Shut up," Ty huffed at him.
* * * *
"Gentlemen, so glad you made it. Special Agent in Charge George McCarty. Nice to meet you both. Let's get on with this, shall we?" the head of the New York Field Office greeted hurriedly without giving either of them a chance to respond in kind. He dropped a few files onto the table and adjusted his tie. "I trust you're both familiar with the case? Good, then we can get on to your arrangements and right into it."
Ty raised an eyebrow at the whirlwind tour and glanced at Zane. Not noticing, Zane flipped open his file where he had a list of notes and questions, waiting for McCarty to continue.
"As we all know, this case has claimed two of our own," McCarty continued as he bent over the table and looked down at his file. "Which has made it of the highest priority. You'll be working alongside the other leads, Special Agents Sears and Ross. They couldn't be here this morning; they're still in the process of interviewing the staff from the hotel where Special Agents Sanchez and Reilly were found," he said tightly. He sighed briefly, as if the little speech were taking a lot out of him. "You'll be given a car and a driver, if you want one. We have booked you two adjoining rooms at the Tribeca Grand. It's within walking distance of the office here and has the highest security. All our records and resources are open to you, although I will tell you right now cooperation from your new teammates will likely be at a minimum despite my orders to work with you," he told them candidly, making no secret of the field office's bitter feelings toward anyone from outside being sent in to handle their cases. "Any questions?"
"You provided the contact list, right?" Zane asked.
"It's all in the file," McCarty answered with a nod. "Anything you need during the course of your investigation is at your disposal, including the team Special Agents Reilly and Sanchez were using. Anything else?"
"Have you found out how the killer knew where the agents were staying?" Ty asked as he turned in his seat and propped his feet up on the chair next to him.
The Special Agent in Charge turned to one of the men at his side. "No," Morrison answered as if obeying the silent cue. He was the shorter of the Hardy Boys, but wiry, with spiked blond hair and bright blue eyes. "We don't believe it was an inside thing, though. We speculate he may have tailed them from one of the scenes."
"Is Serena Scott in town? I'd like her opinions on the crime scenes," Zane asked in reference to New York's head profiler.
"We've not brought her in on this one. Yet," Henninger answered. Out of the truck, Zane could see the young agent was tall and lanky, and his short haircut couldn't restrain the dark curls that had to be natural. "Did you want to meet with her personally?" he asked with an indiscernible look at Ty.
"Absolutely," Zane answered firmly. "Her insight is invaluable, and some things just don't translate from paper."
"We'll arrange the meeting ASAP," the man assured him, looking again at Ty almost questioningly.
Zane glanced at Ty to see if he had anything to add. His new partner was kicked back in his chair and staring up at the ceiling idly, a slight curl of distaste on his lip.
"We won't need the driver. Thank you, sir," Zane said as he closed his file and stood.
"You need anything else, you just go through Agents Henninger or Morrison, here," McCarty said with a gesture of his thumb over his shoulder at no one in particular. "They'll get you anything you need," he assured them as the Hardy Boys nodded.
There was a discreet knock on the boardroom door, and McCarty straightened up and called out a curt "Enter!"
The receptionist stuck her head through the door. "Sir, the Assistant Director on line four for you and Special Agents Grady and Garrett. He says it's urgent."
"Thank you, Denise," McCarty grunted, and she withdrew silently.
McCarty watched the door until it clicked closed, and then he leaned forward and pressed a button on one of the units in the middle of the large boardroom table. "Richard," he greeted.
"Good morning, George," Dick Burns' voice said clearly over the speakerphone. "I trust Grady and Garrett are there and already causing problems?"
"You always did take the safe bet," McCarty responded wryly. "I must repeat my disapproval of this little operation, Richard. I just don't believe one of my staff here is responsible for this madness."
"I understand how difficult your position is, George," Burns responded easily. "But unfortunately, Director Radshaw and I disagree."
Behind McCarty, Henninger and Morrison both shifted uneasily and shared an indiscernible glance. Ty cocked his head, frowning slightly at the speakerphone. He wasn't liking the sound of this conversation, but he thought maybe he understood why they were here now. His sharp hazel eyes traveled up to observe McCarty curiously as the two men spoke over the phone.
McCarty sighed and looked up at Ty and Zane with narrowed eyes. "They look slightly confused, Dick," he told Burns with a hint of amusement.
"Gentlemen," Burns said loudly over the phone. "I do apologize for not filling you in more completely while you were here, but the finer points were still being ironed out."
"Finer points?" Zane asked, a bit peevish at being left out of the loop.
Ty rubbed his nose and squeezed his eyes closed. "Why do you always do this to me?" he asked plaintively.
"Because I dislike you quite a lot," Burns told him in amusement. "You will be working the Tri-State case," he went on without waiting for a response. "You will appear, to the members of the New York team, to be inexperienced, inept, and lackadaisical. If you happen to stumble across any leads, then good for you."
Ty glanced over at Zane and smirked, restraining himself from commenting. Zane was hard-pressed not to sneer back at him.
"On the periphery, and more importantly to your own assignment, you will be concentrating not on the serial murders, but on the deaths of Special Agents Reilly and Sanchez."
"Because you suspect an inside job?" Zane inquired quietly.
"Precisely. We believe if we can uncover how the killer got to them, we'll have him."
"And our parameters for operating?" Ty asked eagerly as he sat forward, closer to the speakerphone.
"Don't kill each other," Burns ordered with a smile in his voice. "Any future questions, you come directly to me. George is to be left out of the loop on the off chance he needs to deny knowledge of your operations," he added.
Ty and Zane both looked up at McCarty. The man did not look pleased, but it was obvious that he'd already had words with Burns regarding the plan.
"That will be all, gentlemen. Good luck," Burns told them. "George, give my love to your girls," he added before the line went dead.
McCarty looked at the two agents sitting across from him and snorted. "Anything else?" he asked them with a raised eyebrow.
"No, sir," Zane answered with a shake of his head.
McCarty merely nodded. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a meeting with the mayor." He grunted unhappily and swept out of the office, leaving Morrison and Henninger behind.
Ty sat twirling his pen idly, unmoving as he looked at the two younger men in amusement. "How'd you get stuck with this shit?" he asked them finally.
"We're just errand boys, sir," Henninger answered in a low voice, a hint of amusement in his dark eyes as he looked at Ty.
Ty grinned crookedly and nodded. "So are we," he responded wryly. Henninger fought hard not to smile.
Zane glanced at the two agents and back to Ty. "Any miraculous sparks of insight, Grady?" he asked.
"Yeah," Ty answered as he stood and removed his suit jacket. He yanked off his tie and threw it onto the table. "I need to find me a Batgirl," he drawled thoughtfully.
"I'm sure the bat signal's upstairs," Zane answered absently as he paged through the folder, checking to see if there were materials he wanted to request. Morrison and Henninger exchanged dubious looks.
"You have way too many of these comments stored up," Ty told Zane disapprovingly. He turned to Morrison and Henninger and gave them a sweeping gesture of his hand. "Take us to the Bat Cave!" he ordered with a straight face.
Morrison's jaw dropped as he stared at Ty, obviously thinking he was insane. His partner looked at him and rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Mark," he muttered. "He's still yanking your chain." The two younger agents led the way out, muttering to each other.
"You know it's more likely they're taking us to Wayne Manor," Zane said as they followed along, both to make his point and to get a jab in at Ty while he could. "Hide in plain sight and spare no expense account." Sad, but true. It was a good thing they weren't supposed to be completely undercover, or they'd already be spoiled.
"That doesn't even make any sense. Shut it, Sidekick," Ty muttered to him.
Zane allowed himself a small smile before he remembered how much he actively disliked this man.
"You two want breakfast before the hotel?" Morrison asked. He seemed to be the talker of the matched set.
"The Bat Cave isn't the hotel," Ty protested in annoyance with a few snaps of his fingers. "Get on board the metaphor, kiddies."
"Where the hell is the Bat Cave, then?" Henninger asked with a long-suffering sigh.
"The lab, man. Take us down to the lab," Ty ordered in exasperation.
Zane glanced over the Hardy Boys, struck again by how young they seemed. Surely, they'd seen some version of Batman. This was making him feel old.
"Well, how the hell are we supposed to know that? You old guys saw all that original crap. The new stuff's a lot better, and the Bat Cave is not a lab," Morrison blustered.
Zane blinked. Old guys? He glanced to Ty, wondering what sort of fireworks that little comment would set off.
"Do I look like I saw the original anything, SpongeBob?" Ty asked with a smirk and a point to his own chest. "What are you doing reading comics anyway? When I was your age I was in the Gulf, man," he continued.
"The Gulf of what?" Morrison responded, a blank look in his eyes.
"The Persian Gulf," Zane answered sharply, not at all amused. He noticed Henninger closing his eyes in exasperation and shaking his head.
Ty didn't know whether to be more shocked at Morrison's idiocy or at Zane's sudden apparent support. He just stared at Morrison for a minute, all joking aside, then glanced at Zane, who met his eyes for a moment, and sighed. "Kids these days," he muttered as he stepped between the two younger agents and punched the button on the elevator.
The elevator ride was a short one, and when the car jerked to a stop Henninger led the way out. "The team has been a little scattered since the deaths of Special Agents Reilly and Sanchez," he said quietly as they walked down the hall. "We all knew them. I'm afraid we're not really organized right now."
"Has the team had any off time?" Ty asked.
Henninger glanced at him defensively as if expecting a jeer. "No," he answered curtly as he opened the door to the main laboratory.
"Give it to them while we get ourselves acquainted with the case," Ty ordered.
Zane frowned. He had no problem with giving the overworked team a day or two off, but how were they supposed to do any of the things Burns ordered if none of the team was around to observe? "We should have access to all the subsidiary case material," he said slowly, not arguing openly. "I'd like to spend some time with the photos."
"I'll have them pulled," Morrison responded diligently, obviously knowing he'd insulted the two older agents and hoping to make up for it.
"Are any of the crime scenes still intact?" Ty asked.
"Uh ... I believe the most recent one is," Morrison answered uncertainly. "May I ask why?"
"I'd like to visit it," Ty answered.
"Me, too," Zane added. He wondered if Serena Scott would mind going along and seeing the site in person. He'd have to ask her--unless Ty got it into his head to go right this minute.
That thought made him realize that he really had no idea what Ty was trained to do or how he would behave on an actual case. The other man at least knew what department Zane came from, although that certainly didn't expose his training. Some research to learn a little more about his asshole of a partner might not be a bad idea. It was obvious from the fact that he had been stationed in the Gulf that he had been military of some sort, and when Zane pondered that it didn't really come as much of a surprise. It wouldn't take long to request a file on Grady.
"When would you like to go?" Morrison asked.
"As soon as we're done down here," Ty answered with a nod to the lab doors as they approached.
"That may be a bit of a problem," Morrison answered nervously as Henninger slid his key card through the security slot.
"Then fix the problem," Ty said to him coldly.
"The NYPD detectives assigned to the case haven't returned our calls for two days. They don't know you're here," Morrison told him.
"So, what's the problem?" Zane asked, stopping at the security desk.
"Technically it's still a joint case. The site was left in NYPD custody," Morrison answered with a grateful look at Zane as Ty sighed in exasperation. "We'll have to notify them of the changes to the case and give them--"
"Then get on it," Ty interrupted before stalking through the security door Henninger held open for him.
"Go on," Zane said quietly. "Let us know when it's set up."
Morrison fled, followed by his quieter partner, and Zane turned and followed Ty, wondering if this would be the pattern for the job: Hurricane Grady sweeps in, tosses everything askew, and sweeps right back out, leaving Zane to clean up the mess.
He hadn't worked his ass off the past two years to be a goddamn janitor.
* * * *
Four hours after entering the lab, Ty sat amid a flurry of papers and untidy stacks of reports. He leaned his elbows on the table, scowling heavily and staring at the shiny stainless-steel top.
On the other side of the table, Zane was busily working on his charts. He just happened to glance up, the look on Ty's face giving him pause. "What's wrong?"
Ty didn't look up. His eyes were slightly glazed and his brow furrowed. "There's no pattern," he muttered. "The only things connecting these cases are the little tokens the dude leaves with the bodies and the fact they all end up dead. Other than that, there's no common victim type, there's no common MO. Weapon, cause of death, even the way he stages them. All different."
He finally focused his eyes and glared at the files accusingly as if it was their fault.
"Victim Number One; Kyle Walters," he recited suddenly. "Wealthy Wall Street type, found in his bedroom, still alive, half-insane, suffering from severe hypersensitivity to light, sound, smell, you name it. Dies in the hospital without ever saying a coherent word. Cause of death is ruled a meth overdose. Hell, the only reason we even know this guy was a victim was the maid finding the token from the killer a week later. Serial killers tend to get their kicks from watching their victims die or from the power to kill. Why would he leave him alive and risk being identified?"
"Maybe they get their kicks just as much from watching the suffering," Zane suggested quietly, not looking up from his paper. His fingers moved over the charts, still making notes from the case files. "The best developing pattern is the fact that the victims are so different. Like he's choosing specifically based on some reasoning. A majority of serial killers fixate on a particular style of victim--young blonde women or rich gay men, for instance."
"Yes, dear, I'm aware of that. That's my point. We have a thirty-seven-year-old male stockbroker; overdosed with shitty-quality meth," Ty said as he closed his eyes and rested his head back against his chair. He shook his head, reciting everything from memory. "Next, Susan Harris, a twenty-something hooker found in nothing but a six hundred-count white sheet in the most exclusive cemetery in the state, all her teeth gone and no apparent cause of death. Then a double murder. Two young women: Allison McFadden and Theresa Escobar. Roommates, both suffocated, positioned in their beds as if they were sleeping. The only notable thing about them is that their hair had been dyed postmortem. Then we have the infamous set of twins who got the Bureau involved, Ryan and Russell Stevens. Killed at the Tri-State marker, one man in each of the bordering states, shot dead. Late fifties, an apparent double-suicide, if not for the token left by the killer."
He rolled his neck and shook his head, trying to make sense of it. "The first guy was a brunet, the hooker was a bottle blonde but a natural brunette, the second and third were blonde and black-haired, then dyed the opposite, and the twins were both redheads. Both sexes, no common body type. Brown eyes, green eyes, blue eyes ... hell, he doesn't even leave the same tokens! Fuck it!" he spat. "All serials have patterns. It's got to be there," he muttered to himself.
"Not having a pattern can be a pattern." The patient distraction was clear in Zane's voice.
"If he's intelligent and not quite insane, he may be deliberately toying with us. It's a game to him." While Ty was getting frustrated, Zane kept himself removed, focusing on the numbers and the data. "I want to plot the locations of the bodies to get an idea of the territory we're looking at." He looked up to see Ty frowning, and Zane's curiosity got the best of him. "Tell me, Grady, why the hell are you here? Why did Burns put you on this case?"
"I understand that there is a pattern," Ty responded slowly, ignoring the question momentarily. "I want to know what the fuck it is," he ground out patiently. He leaned back and rolled his neck. "And he put me on it because he knows me. I'm good at sneaking around and I'm good at mind games," he said curtly, not choosing to elaborate.
Zane nodded slowly. He was starting to see why they'd been paired up for this freak show. Ty was good at mind games, Zane was good at details and patterns. And they so obviously didn't work well together that they didn't even need to make a show of it for the New York team.
"I've got enough here," he announced, closing his file and notebook. "Tomorrow we'll talk with the NYPD detectives, and Serena Scott should return my call. Henninger and Morrison will either get us access to the scene, or we'll get access on our own." He pushed back from the table. "You have anything else?" His voice was neutral.
"No," Ty muttered without moving. He was still staring at the files and frowning.
Zane watched him silently for a long moment before saying, "Ready to head over to the hotel? I don't know about you, but I'm ready for dinner and a drink."
"You drink on duty?" Ty asked incredulously as he finally tore his eyes away from the files.
"Doesn't everyone?" Zane headed for the hall. "I have a new smart-ass partner to deal with, so certainly I can't be blamed," he muttered under his breath while he walked to the door and out of the lab. A few beers with dinner wouldn't even register on a Breathalyzer with his body mass and would go a long way to new brainstorms, but he didn't dare. That didn't mean he didn't dream otherwise, though.
"You've never been a field agent before, have you?" Ty asked with disdain, calling out the question as he remained at the table, staring at the files and crime-scene photos.
Zane stopped at the door, taking a moment to order his thoughts and push away the ghosts of his constant nightmares. "A drink now and then is not going to end the world. I'm guessing that you came from deep cover, which means you were always looking over your shoulder, living the part every minute, knowing one mistake would send you to the morgue." Zane knew the situation very well. "While it's admirable, and arguably the most difficult job the Bureau does, you're going to have to figure out how to downshift, or the people we work with are going to strangle you. You can't work around the clock and stay sharp enough to crunch this much data and get inside a madman's head."
Ty tore his eyes away from the papers again and looked up at Zane seriously. "You think those boys down in the morgue downshifted before he killed 'em?" he asked flatly.
"I think they were locked down as securely as they could get, with no reason to think they'd be found, much less attacked. Which means one of two things," Zane responded, brown eyes hard and unflinching. "They'd either already screwed up and exposed themselves or someone who knew where they were gave them up, either by mistake or not. Either way, letting down their guard made no difference. They were already dead."
Ty just shook his head and snorted derisively. He knew he was damned if he was going to let himself be shot in the chest as he slept. You never thought you were safe. Feeling safe got you killed.
Zane could almost see the tension pouring off Ty in waves. "Are you going to the hotel or are you planning on staying here all day?" he asked.
"I'm going to a hotel," Ty answered as he stood and gathered his coat and satchel. "A different hotel. And you're coming with me."
Zane simply leveled a gaze at him, waiting for explanation. It was the first time the other man had even remotely indicated that he wanted Zane anywhere around him.
"I don't plan on losing another agent to this shit, got it?" Ty responded sharply as he stuffed several of the files in his bag and glared back at Zane. "Even if it is you."
Zane supposed he should feel all warm and fuzzy about Ty at least not wanting him gruesomely murdered and left to bleed out in his shower or something. Somehow, the sentiment didn't really inspire much camaraderie, though. "So where are we going?"
"Holiday Inn, man," Ty answered. "If I'm footin' the bill, I ain't paying no damn five hundred bucks a night."
Zane shrugged. A room was a room. He'd stayed in better and he'd stayed in worse. He followed Ty out of the lab and back down the hall to the elevator. "And then?" He wanted to know if Ty's sudden concern for his well-being included staying in close proximity; he'd planned to come back after dinner to study the maps and evidence notes.
Ty shrugged as he punched the elevator button. "Then we see what's brewing," he answered carelessly.
Zane looked over at his partner in exasperation. First, complete and total focus on the case, a case that wasn't even their main focus, and now, this. "Do you do anything like a normal person?" he asked, although the question was wholly rhetorical. And not at all complimentary.
Ty turned around and looked at him in slight surprise once they were in the elevator. "Only the fun things," he answered finally after a moment of looking at him thoughtfully.
"Fun things," Zane echoed, not looking away from Ty once he was pinned by the man's hazel eyes.
"You remember those, don't you?" Ty questioned with a smirk as he let his eyes travel up and down Zane thoughtfully. "Maybe you don't," he decided with a sigh.
Zane knew with absolute certainty that he did not want this conversation to continue. "How many strikes have I got left?" he asked abruptly. He knew Ty had been taking his measure, in more ways than one.
"None," Ty answered immediately, though he was somewhat surprised Zane even knew to ask the question.
A ghost of a self-deprecating smile crossed Zane's lips. He knew Ty had no respect for him. Frankly, Zane didn't care. He didn't plan for this joke of a partnership to last long. He just wondered who higher up in the Bureau had decided to take him out along with Ty. "So why hasn't the ump thrown me out of the game?"
"'Cause there ain't no umps in this particular game," Ty answered seriously as the doors whooshed open on the ground floor. "And there ain't no rules."
Zane walked out ahead of the other man. "So we do without." He could live with that. Better than working under someone else's thumb like the past two years. "Or we make up our own."
"Yeah, you seem the type to need rules," Ty responded with a derogatory sneer.
Zane didn't answer as they walked through the parking garage. He drew back into his stony silence, focusing on thinking about the next steps of the investigation instead of the insolence of his jackass of a partner.