Authors: Toni Anderson
Frazer’s gaze tracked her features like a human lie detector, but his expression didn’t change. “We have people working the case. Hostage negotiators are with the LeMays now.”
“He took her phone. Unless he turned off the GPS you should be able to track it within a few meters.” Her nails dug into her palms. Shouldn’t these guys be
“Her phone was found near the area where someone took a shot at you.”
. “They must have seen your agents show up and thought I’d called the cops. Let me try to speak to the person who took her. Tell them that she had nothing to do with any of it.”
“Who do you think took her?”
“Who do you think?” She frowned. Surely he wasn’t that stupid.
“I’m interested in your thoughts, Dr. Stone.”
“Let me talk to the kidnappers, and I’ll tell you everything I’ve been thinking since the day you guys arrested my dad fourteen years ago.”
“You think this has something to do with your father’s case?”
Scarlett snapped her mouth shut. Them wanting to know her motivation was the only currency she had right now.
“Wouldn’t you rather talk to a lawyer?”
She snorted. “I saw how much good lawyers did my father.” She got serious fast. “I just want to save my friend. If she’s hurt in any way because of what I did…”
“We have professionals who deal with this sort of thing.”
“But I’m the person they want and the first few hours are crucial in abductions,” she countered. “Give me a phone, and I’ll call the person responsible.”
Frazer leaned back in his chair, a smile playing around his lips that did nothing to warm his eyes. “So you intend to, what? Call the Russian embassy? Maybe chat with Ambassador Dorokhov himself? Do you really believe he’s going to admit to kidnapping a congressman’s daughter?”
Scarlett’s heart fluttered under her breastbone. Frazer was right, Dorokhov would never talk to her. She dragged her hands over her face. What had she done? She was so stressed she could barely think but there had to be a way to fix this. Problem solving was her forte. “Look. I heard Alex Parker telling Agent Lazlo that he got the license plate of the car of the person shooting at us.”
.” Lazlo interrupted. “The shooter was aiming at
For the first time she noticed a tear in the t-shirt he wore. “Were you
?” Her voice rose with concern.
Lazlo exchanged a glance with his boss. “It’s a graze.” He shrugged as if to emphasize how much it didn’t hurt.
Frazer’s expression tightened, but he didn’t press the issue.
If they were determined to pretend getting shot was an everyday occurrence, so be it.
“You can find the car though, right?” Otherwise how on earth could they save Angel? “They want to swap her for me. That’s all you have to do is hand me over and Angel will be safe. I’d think that would make you very happy.” She sent Lazlo a brittle smile.
“They’ll kill you. Don’t you care about your own survival?” Lazlo bit out.
“Of course I care,” she snapped. “But they won’t kill me.”
His brows rose as if to say “seriously?”.
She straightened her spine. “Why would they want to kill me? I didn’t
anything.” Lazlo opened his mouth to argue, but she held up her finger. “Yes, I tried to bug Dorokhov but someone beat me to the punch.” Realization dawned. “And the reason you followed me to the park is you already know this. You know what I found when I tried to plant my bug in that office because the FBI already had Dorokhov under surveillance. Why?”
No one answered. Of course no one answered. But then she figured out what they already knew.
. “Dorokhov doesn’t know the bug in the lamp wasn’t mine, does he?” She avoided looking at Lazlo, concentrated on Frazer. “The FBI isn’t likely to admit they were the ones spying, even to save my skin—” She groaned. “Especially to save
Her eyes swiveled back to Lazlo’s. “I think I want that lawyer now.”
The tightness of his jaw and the tense set of his shoulders didn’t bode well. He straightened away from the wall and opened his mouth.
Frazer beat him to it. “You’re free to go.”
Scarlett shook her head, certain she’d misheard. “Pardon me?”
“You’re free to leave.” Frazer repeated and closed the file in front of him with calm finality, all cool, controlled federal official.
“But…” She pointed at Lazlo. “He arrested me.”
“A misunderstanding.” Frazer smiled, which made him look scary.
But so what? It didn’t matter. They were going to let her go, and relief made her pulse flutter. She pushed back her chair. She could go home and wait for the kidnapper to contact her again. Maybe the cops would catch the guy this time and find Angel.
“She assaulted a federal agent.” Lazlo ground out between teeth that looked fused together.
Frazer swept his eyes over her frame then back to his agent. “You have nearly a foot in height and probably a hundred pounds weight advantage. How assaulted did you get?”
“That isn’t the point and you know it.” Lazlo’s growl deepened. She felt his disapproval all the way down to her marrow.
“Let it go,” insisted Frazer.
Lazlo’s eyes narrowed. “Sir, I need to talk to you. Now.” It didn’t sound like a request. She shifted in her seat about to make her escape while she could. He pointed at her. “Stay.”
Dammit. “I’m not a dog.” But she didn’t want to piss him off and sat anxiously on the edge of her seat as the two men went outside to talk. She needed to get out of here before they changed their minds. She needed to figure out how to get her friend to safety because she didn’t think the FBI had a handle on this situation. The only decent FBI agent she’d ever known had been locked up while the rest of them threw away the key. No way did she want Angel to become another innocent victim of federal incompetence.
* * *
Matt didn’t know
what the hell was going on, but he didn’t like it. This wasn’t about his ego or the law. In the normal course of events, getting kicked in the shin would rate a two on his reasons-to-get-pissed-off scale. He injured himself worse whenever he did the assault course. This was about keeping Scarlett Stone safe from her own foolishness. He’d rather see her arrested and in jail than running around DC like a grown up version of Veronica Mars.
They crowded around the table where Mallory Rooney was on the phone to the Metropolitan Police Department, trying to track down the shooter’s car via traffic cams. Alex Parker was also on the phone. Matt suspected he had the people at his cyber-security firm earning a little overtime doing the exact same thing.
Rooney put down the phone. “No sign of the vehicle yet. They’re looking.”
A couple of agents from this office sat at their desks and eyed them curiously. The deputy director had given them permission to use the interrogation room and facilities, but expected a full briefing in return.
Parker activated some sort of signal jammer on his key ring and a small red light lit up. He placed it on the desk between them. He kept his voice to a low murmur. “This prevents any electronic listening equipment picking up our conversation within a twenty foot radius. It doesn’t stop people physically overhearing what we say. We can talk in confidence, but keep it down.”
Matt’s brows hiked. What they were discussing was highly sensitive, but who the hell did Parker think was bugging FBI HQ? Maybe the guy was paranoid from being in the security business. Maybe he knew something Matt didn’t.
It didn’t matter. “You can’t seriously be letting her go,” Matt said to his boss.
“Direct orders from the chief of the Counterespionage Section in the Counterintelligence Division, Ridley Branson.” Frazer crossed his arms over his chest. He didn’t look happy. “Think about it. The Russians aren’t going to press charges because it would make them the laughing stock of the entire intelligence community—and one thing the Russians hate is being laughed at by the West. The fact Richard Stone’s daughter waltzed in there without them recognizing her? Priceless.”
“I’m not interested in the Russians pressing charges.” Matt tried to curb his impatience. “I don’t want her in some Soviet-era gulag for trying to sneak a look at Dorokhov. Surely we can hold her on something minor?”
arrest her, we tip our hand as to the fact it was
spying on them, not the Chinese, because how else would we know she was in trouble?”
“Haven’t we already tipped our hand by intercepting her at the park tonight?”
Frazer raised his index finger. “Look at it from the Russian point of view. What do they know? A handsome FBI agent is spotted chatting up the daughter of a convicted spy at the Russian Ambassador’s residence.”
Matt kept his expression carefully neutral.
“Scarlett Stone subsequently enters the ambassador’s office uninvited and when they search it they find listening devices. She’s shot at in the park and we bring her in for questioning.”
“They’ll think we were actively surveilling her,” suggested Rooney. “They’ll think she was Matt’s target all along and that we had suspicions about her intentions or activities.”
“Won’t they think she’s working for us?” asked Matt.
“No way.” Frazer’s facial expression said that was never going to happen. “Her father humiliated this agency and he’s still resented by many who now run the Bureau.”
Matt exchanged a glance with Alex Parker. His expression remained impassive, but the guy had said Scarlett would make the perfect scapegoat for the FBI’s activities. He was right.
“Which puts Scarlett Stone in danger if we let her back on the streets with no protection,” Matt argued his point again. “You said yourself the Russians hate being made fools of. They’ll wait a few hours and then grab her. She’s totally vulnerable.” Matt ground his teeth. “
shouldn’t have to pay for our country’s spying activities.”
Frazer cocked his head. “She’s the one who broke into his office with intent.”
“She’s the one they caught,” Matt corrected.
“Why were we looking at Dorokhov?” Rooney asked the question they’d asked TacOps earlier.
Frazer shrugged, but from the tightening of his mouth, he didn’t like the lack of intel any more than Matt did.
“No one knows much about the guy, but the people he makes nervous make me nervous. There was this one thing in Istanbul a few years ago that no one can attribute to him for sure, but…” Parker trailed off.
“What?” Matt asked.
“He found out one of his underlings was screwing his mistress—this was before he was married. Guy was found dead in an alley. Woman ended up in the hospital.”
“Someone threw acid in her face.”
Parker watched him carefully. “That’s the story.”
Frazer’s gaze turned glacial. “Rumor. Gossip. He’s the Russian Ambassador, not some Mafia figure.” But people in power often abused it. This wasn’t news.
There was silence for a moment as everyone processed their thoughts. “The positive thing about letting Scarlett Stone go is that the kidnapper might try to contact her again. In which case Parker should be able to trace the call and we can hopefully locate Angel LeMay before they decide she’s more trouble than she’s worth.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Matt didn’t lose it often and he never lost it with his boss. “The
thing? They shot at her.” Sweet Jesus. The situation was unraveling, and he didn’t like what he was seeing here. This was bullshit politics. He trusted his boss but the man seemed to be blind to the danger surrounding the woman in the next room—or uncaring. “What about protective custody?”
“For the daughter of the most notorious spy in US history?” Frazer’s lips twisted angrily. “Because she broke into the Russian Ambassador’s residence and tried to conduct illegal surveillance? Do you see that request being approved?”
“If we let her go she’s dead,” Matt stated baldly. He ground his teeth. Russian ambassador or not, the woman was naïve if she believed Dorokhov wouldn’t punish her severely for this escapade.
“We can put a tail on her for a few days. Have patrol cars do extra drive-bys past her house. The brass won’t act unless they believe she’s in mortal danger—”
. “Of course she is.”
Matt put both hands on his head and wished he could rewind his day by six hours and tell Frazer to go to hell when he asked him to go to the Christmas party. Or maybe eight hours so he could get two solid hours of drinking inside him so he wouldn’t be in any condition to give a shit. Except Scarlett would still have tried to bug the Russians, would still have been spotted, and would probably already be dead.
“She instigated this mess.” Frazer’s expression betrayed nothing.
“And you’re hanging her out to dry.” Matt reined in his temper. “Are you really just gonna let them kill her?”
“What if she’s right about her father?” Rooney asked quietly.
“He confessed.” Matt dismissed the idea.
“The Russians always denied he was their agent,” Rooney argued.
“They always do unless there’s an exchange in the offing,” said Frazer.
Which would never happen for Stone.
“Why else would she go after Dorokhov?” Rooney insisted. She shoved hair off her forehead. There were dark shadows under her eyes and her cheeks were pale. Matt had heard rumors she was pregnant. She didn’t complain. She might be a rookie but she was a diligent agent. Smart. “It doesn’t make sense unless she believes it is the truth.”
“Kids are often delusional about their parents.” God knew he’d been delusional about his father.
“She might be working for someone else—corporate or State espionage,” Parker suggested. “Or was maybe blackmailed into planting the bug for some other purpose. Her work is on the cutting edge of technology. Maybe it was some sort of test?”
It didn’t ring true with Matt. Scarlett was just another kid let down first by her parent and then by the system. It didn’t mean she got to take things into her own hands, but a bullet seemed like extreme recourse.