Teasers & Deleted ScenesJ. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, D.C., October 2008
Victor Celentano kept his office on the cold side. Reyes had girded himself before this interview, donning a wool suit and an undershirt so he could sit in comfort, rather than hunching against the chill while he languished in the winter-white chair that fronted Celentano's desk. Celentano let him linger there anyway, Reyes watching while the BAU Unit Chief sorted paperwork, frowning.
Tactics. Social engineering.
Reyes was being encouraged to think upon his sins.
Celentano finally looked up. His pale skin looked powdery with exhaustion. Their eyes met. Reyes made sure he glanced down first.
"Do you understand why you were disciplined?" Celentano had a habitual-smoker's rasp, though to Reyes's knowledge he'd never used tobacco. His teeth and fingers were devoid of stains.
"Because I fucked the dog," Reyes said, plainly. "By rights, I should be sending out resumes right about now." You are a just and loving God, he projected, and hoped that Celentano believed he meant it.
Celentano leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled. "If I bring you back to work, are you capable of doing your job?"
Am I? Reyes looked down at his hands, the cuticles rough, the pale nail-beds. "To the best of my ability, Victor. I have... I am reconsidering my management style."
Celentano huffed like a steer, but the barrier of his arms came down. He shoved his keyboard out of the way irritably so he could drape his wrists across the blotter. "Consider the riot act read into the record. Now go back to work."
"There's something I need to discuss with you."
"A transfer?" Oh, he could be arch when he wanted. Arch--even cutting--but Celentano had enough charisma that it was funny even though it stung.
Reyes smiled, in spite of himself. "Outreach--"
"Victor. There are people--not just gammas, but betas--out there who may be dying--starving to death, undiagnosed, the way Gates and Villette almost did--because nobody knows what the hell is wrong with them. There are people who may be on the verge of converting, scared and confused. Maybe gammas don't happen overnight. Maybe we can be proactive rather than simply reactive. We're saving about one in twelve, now. We could do better. We could get there before civilians and law enforcement get killed, or wind up killing to stop people who are sick."
"Law enforcement," Celentano said, "is a reactive field. You know as well as I do that part of the Bureau's mission has been to change that." Another man's voice might have gotten tinny and sharp with stress. Celentano's dropped a little. In the book-lined office, it did not echo.
Reyes nodded. "That's why I'm bringing this to you. Those people are not just potential research subjects that we can't use because we don't know about them. They're also human beings. I believe we can get to some of them in time. Save them. Identify them and get them help. We're having some success with the cognitive model, with treating it as a compulsion. There is hope."
He knew what the answer was going to be in advance, but he had to try.
Celentano would not have gotten where he was if he simply reacted without considering. This time, he considered for a full seventy-five seconds, timing by the clock on the wall. At last he sighed, laid his hands flat on his blotter, and said, "I'm on your side, Stephen. You know how much it costs to keep seven field agents on semi-detached duty in a task force that doesn't exist. But have you considered how much Idlewood costs? Doctor Baylor? Doctor Ramachandran? Doctor Allison? The retainers and clearances for Doctor Beale, Doctor Frost, Doctor Srinivasan, and associated consultants? The people who hold those purse strings are adamant that public knowledge of the anomaly--beyond the usual internet cranks--would cause panic and possibly a civil threat. They're worried about lynchings."
Reyes shook his head, not a denial but a disagreement. Across the width of the desk and an expanse of floor, Celentano's long straight fingers made a gesture eloquent of helplessness, his palms turning over and sweeping wide.
He sighed and finished, "My hands--are tied."
When those hands landed on the desk, palms down, side by side, Reyes nodded. The interview was over. He stood, knee creaking protest, and felt his shoes sink into the carpet pad. "You'll keep pushing?"
"When I can," Celentano said. "There's a limit to how much I can 'push' the Justice Department. Go back to your desk, Stephen. There's a pile of case jackets on it."