Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(6)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(6)
Author: Patricia Briggs

"Why me?" she asked. "Len could go. That way you could include the police." Len was the local Boston PD officer who worked on their task force. "Or Christine - she's done a few more serial murder cases than I have."

Nick sat back and stilled, pulling all his energy in the way he did when they got a good lead on someone they'd been looking for. "A friend of mine called me and gave me a heads-up. He knows Hauptman - more importantly, Hauptman knows he is a friend of mine. Hauptman called him to give me some more background."

Leslie's eyebrows went up. "Interesting."

"Isn't it?" Nick smiled. "My friend told me that Hauptman said I might want to be careful who I sent. Someone low-key, good with body language, and absolutely not aggressive."

He looked at her and she nodded. "Not Len, not Christine." Len was smart, but hardly low-key, and Christine had a competitive streak a mile wide. Leslie could hold her own, but she didn't need to rub people's noses in it.

"That lets me out, too," Nick admitted. "Angel and you are probably the best fit, and Angel is just a little too green to send out on his own against the bad guys just yet." Angel was fresh out of Quantico.

"I'll take good notes," she promised.

"Do that," Nick said. His fingers were doing the little impatient dance they did when he was thinking among friends - like he was conducting invisible music.

Leslie waited, but he didn't say anything.

"So why are we making this extra effort to get along with the werewolf?" she asked.

Nick smiled. "My friend told me that Hauptman said that the people we'd be meeting might be persuaded to give us a little more concrete help if the person we sent was someone they felt they could trust."

"People?" Leslie leaned forward. "There's more than one?"

"Hauptman said 'people.' That didn't come through official channels so I saw no reason to pass it on."

Nick was very good at cooperating. Cooperation solved crimes, put the bad guys behind bars. Cooperation was the new byword - and it worked. However, put Nick's back up, and cooperation might mean something...a little less cooperative. He might disparage the Trippers in private, but it didn't hinder him at all in the field. Homeland Security, on the other hand, tended to set his back up rather more forcibly because they liked to forget that the FBI had jurisdiction on all terrorist activity on US soil. Nick reminded them of that whenever necessary and with great pleasure.

"I would very much appreciate," Nick said, "if we could use our consultant or consultants in the field."

"It would be interesting to see what a werewolf could do at a crime scene," Leslie said, considering it. From what little she knew about werewolves, it might be like having a bloodhound who could talk - instant forensics.

Nick showed his even white teeth in a heartfelt grimace. "I don't ever want to see another waterlogged child's body with a livestock tag in his ear. If a werewolf might make a difference, get them on board, please."

"On it."

LESLIE PUT HER hands flat on the hotel conference table. Her nails were short, manicured, and polished with a clear coat that matched the sheen of the wood she claimed under her hands. Territorial rights were important. She had a degree in psychology and another in anthropology, but she'd understood it since Miss Nellie Michaelson had gone puppy-hunting in Mrs. Cullinan's backyard.

She'd come early because that was a way to turn neutral territory into hers. It was one of the things that made her a good agent - she paid attention to the details, details like gaining the home-court advantage when dealing with monsters - especially ones with big, sharp teeth.

She'd done a boatload of studying since Nick dropped this on her yesterday.

Werewolves were supposed to be poor, downtrodden victims of a disease, people who used the abilities their misfortune granted them to help others. David Christiansen, the first person to admit to being a werewolf, was a specialist in extracting terrorist hostages. She was sure that his being incredibly photogenic had not been an accident. Leslie's oldest daughter had a poster up on her bedroom door of that famous photo of David holding the child he'd rescued. Other wolves who had admitted what they were tended to be firemen, policemen, and military: the good guys one and all.

She could have smelled the spin-doctoring from orbit. Spin-doctoring wasn't lying, not precisely. David Christiansen's little group of mercenaries had a very good reputation among the people Leslie had talked to. They got the job done with minimal casualties on all sides and they were good at what they did. They didn't take jobs from the bad guys. Because of that, Leslie was keeping an open mind - but because she was naturally cautious, she also was keeping a pair of silver bullets (hastily purchased) loaded in her carry gun.

The door opened behind her and she turned to see a young woman enter the room who looked like she should still be going to high school. Leslie felt that way all too often when she met the new recruits fresh from Quantico. The girl's light reddish brown hair was braided severely in an attempt to make her look older, but the effect wasn't enough to offset the freckles that burst across her pale cheeks or the innocent honey brown eyes.

"Oh, hi," the girl said brightly, her voice touched just a little with a Chicago accent. "I thought I'd be the first one here. It's a bit early."

"I like to get the lay of the land," said Leslie, and the younger woman laughed.

"Oh, I get that," she said, grinning. "Charles is like that."

Charles would be her partner, Leslie thought. They must be from Cantrip. This child wouldn't be a werewolf - there were supposed to be a few female werewolves, Leslie knew, thanks to her Internet crash course, but they were protective of them. They'd never have sent this one out among the feds. Come to think of it, she wouldn't have left the girl alone, either.

"So why isn't your Charles here, then?" He'd abandoned her to the wolves. It made her want to blister his hide - and she hadn't even met him. What if it had been the werewolf awaiting the girl here rather than an FBI agent?

Leslie received a slow grin that took in her private censure and found it amusing. "He lost a bet and had to bring coffee for everyone. He's not happy about it, either. I probably shouldn't enjoy it so much, but sometimes I take great pleasure in sending a man off in a snit; don't you?"

She surprised a laugh out of Leslie. "Don't I just," she agreed before taking a wary breath. This one was getting to her - she never laughed while she was working. She reassessed the other woman. She looked like a teenager dressed in a tailor-made, gray pin-striped suit-dress that somehow appeared to be a costume she was wearing rather than real clothing.

"I bet," Leslie said, testing an idea, "that dangerous men stumble all over themselves to make sure you don't stub your toe."

She knew she was right when, instead of looking flustered, the woman just smiled archly. "And I make sure they apologize when they bump into each other doing it."

"Ha," Leslie said triumphantly. "I thought even Cantrip had more sense than to toss a tender morsel to the wolves. I'm Special Agent Leslie Fisher, FBI Violent Crimes Unit."

"I'm Anna Smith, today." The girl gave her a rueful smile. "Not Cantrip. One of the wolves, I'm afraid. And even worse, Smith isn't my real name. I told them it was a silly one, but Charles said it was better to be obvious about it or you or Homeland Security would find some poor Charles and Anna Washington, Adams, or Jefferson to harass."

THE FBI AGENT wasn't exactly what Anna had expected, but she wasn't different, either. Smart, well dressed, confident - that, the TV shows, the movies, had gotten right. Anna had become very good at judging people since she'd been Changed. Body language, scent, those didn't lie. She'd surprised the agent with her revelation, but not frightened her, which boded well for their chances of working together.

The fine lines around bitter-chocolate eyes deepened, and for a moment Special Agent Leslie Fisher looked exactly as dominant as she was. She might be in her mid-forties, but the well-cut suit jacket she wore covered muscle.

Her eyes said she was tough. Tough like a junkyard dog - and not just physically. If she were a wolf - and male - she'd be second or third in a pack, Anna judged. Not Alpha, she didn't have the underlying aggressive territoriality that pushed dominant to the head of the pack, but near that. How many people had the FBI agent fooled with that cool exterior?

The frown in Special Agent Fisher's eyes extended to her full lips as she said, "We are having this meeting here, with as few people as possible, because the man who set it up said it wouldn't be smart to upset the werewolf." She lifted a well-groomed eyebrow. "You don't look easily upset."

Scolded. Anna fought not to grin in satisfaction. Now. How to tell her what she needed to know without scaring her. "They're not worried about upsetting me. It's my husband who's the problem werewolf."

The other woman frowned. "So there is another werewolf coming here. Your husband?" She sounded faintly incredulous. That Anna was married? That her spouse was a werewolf? That there were two of them? If Fisher knew werewolves well, she'd be most incredulous that Charles had left her alone.

Anna was a bit incredulous about that herself - and it gave her a smidgen of hope that Bran was on the right track with this business. She hadn't been as certain as he and Asil that it would be good for Charles to hunt down a serial killer rather than hunt down misbehaving wolves, but Charles had agreed and so it was done.

"Yes." Anna nodded. "I'm a werewolf. I'm married. And my husband is a werewolf, too."

Fisher's frown deepened. "The word is that whoever we're supposed to meet is up the line from Hauptman, who's the Alpha of a full pack of wolves."

"Is that what the word is?" murmured Anna as she wondered who'd let the word out and if Bran knew about it - or if he'd engineered it. If she kept wondering about how much of her life Bran engineered, she'd end up in a funny farm knitting caps for ducks.

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