Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, DC, October 2008

When Hafidha walks into his office and shuts the door behind herself, Reyes straightens against the back of his chair. For a moment, he feels like Remo Williams: the fact of her distress is obvious to him, and once he would have known how he knew it, the thousand little tells that give her away. But now there's just the gestalt of her stance, her frown, the tightness between her eyes and the tighter way she slides her fingers around the doorknob.

"Villette," he says, because nothing else could put that miserable pinch between her eyes and in the corners of her mouth.

She nods. He wonders why she came to him and not Falkner, and just as quickly understands: because this is a command decision, and whatever has happened, she wants as few people to know it as possible. He stands up, comes around the desk, and lets her have the advantage of her height and heels. She glares, but he stops before she either takes a step back or swings at him. Hostility rolls off her in waves.

"Tell me," he says.

Her mouth thins. "Bought a one-way ticket to Las Vegas."

Unsurprised, Reyes echoes her nod. Villette's not so much in the wind as going to ground. It's understandable.

Not for the first time, Reyes wonders if he's broken the unit for good. If Chaz doesn't come back, neither Hafidha nor Worth will stay. Maybe not even in the FBI. Brady will be touch and go, and if he loses Brady, he loses Lau.

Which is no more than he deserves, if that's the way it falls out. Maybe it would be best if he went first, left Todd and Falkner to clean up his mess. Then at least somebody would still be looking out for the civilians.

Hafidha steels herself, back straightening, chest rising under a pewter-colored ruffled silk pirate shirt. "Is he a fugitive?"

Reyes drifts toward the desk. With every step he takes away from her, her shoulders drop a millimeter. "Officially, he's on medical leave," Reyes says. "He's a free man. He's entitled to come and go as he likes."

Her hand twists at the knob again, but she doesn't open the door. "And if he doesn't come back?"

Reyes doesn't care if she sees him wince. "That's his choice too, Special Agent Gates. He's neither a suspect nor a criminal. We aren't in the business of indenturing our agents."

Her slackening isn't a flinch or forgiveness. It's relief. She proves it by nodding once and pulling the door ajar, but his voice stops her before she steps through it.

"Thank you for trusting me with this," he says.

Hafidha looks over her shoulder, mascara widening gamine eyes that--today--are her natural brown.

"It wasn't trust," she says and puts her game face on before she goes, the door drifting open again behind her.