Today's Reading

Faith performed an illegal U-turn and sped toward the Secret Service office. She listened to the police chatter over her radio. Based on what she was hearing, it sounded like a bomb threat. It was normally a fifteen-minute drive to the Raleigh resident office of the Secret Service, what they referred to as the RAIC. She arrived in ten and had to park a quarter of a mile away. Dale pulled in behind her.

She met him at his car and waited for him to emerge. "What's going on?"

"We'll find out together," he said.

"Do you know how many people are typically in their office?" Faith asked the question more to get Dale talking than out of real curiosity.

"It varies between eight and ten agents and one office manager," Dale said. "Thad Baker hasn't been replaced yet, so they were down to seven agents. Which means as of today, they are down to...five. And two of them are in the hospital."

Dale set a blistering pace, and Faith hurried to match it. Three functional agents and an office manager left? She didn't like to draw conclusions, but who had ever heard of a resident office being decimated like this? What had they been investigating that would generate this level of violence against them? Or was it someone who had it out for the Secret Service, or federal agencies in general?

She and Dale reached the police tape. After a quick pause to show their identification, they were allowed inside but then were stopped at a secondary barrier.

"Can't let you in," the officer said. "Everyone's out. The bomb dogs are in there."

"Dale!" A thick Jersey accent punctured the murmuring voices around them.

"Jacob." Dale took the man's extended hand and pulled him into a hug. "I can't believe he's gone."

The two men parted. "You and me both, brother."

Dale pointed in Faith's direction. "You know Faith Malone?"

"Of course." Jacob turned to face her, and his eyes were puffy from tears.

If circumstances were anything other than what they were, she would have given him a hard time for the way his golf foursome had lost to hers and Luke's in the last interagency golf tournament. As it was, she had absolutely no idea what to say.

"I know you and Luke have done a lot of work together. Did they tell you he's going to be okay?"

Jacob's assurance that Luke was going to be fine eased some of her worry. "That's great, sir." Should she shake his hand? She fumbled with her iPad as her mind scrambled. "But I'm sorry for your losses today, sir."

"I appreciate that."

"Faith has the lead on this case," Dale said.

Jacob eyed her with shrewd speculation before he responded. "I'm not sure when we'll get Luke and Zane back in the office, but until then, my remaining agents will give you their full cooperation."

"Thank—"

A commotion from the building interrupted her. Heavily clad figures from the bomb squad stepped out. Dale and Jacob rushed forward. Faith followed.

This was her investigation after all.

"What do you have?" Jacob yelled from twenty yards away.

"Sir, we went through with our dog, and he didn't alert to anything." The woman hidden behind protective gear held up a hand. "But the building hasn't been cleared. ATF wants to do another sweep with a couple of their dogs."

Dale and Jacob launched into a debate about whether to let the ATF handle the bomb aspects of the case. Faith tuned them out. She was usually in favor of keeping the investigation in-house, and the FBI had solid bomb/explosive investigative capabilities. But she knew a couple of the ATF agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and they were top notch. She wouldn't mind them taking care of this part of the investigation.

While Dale and Jacob hammered out the jurisdictional complications, Faith's mind whirled with possibilities. It wasn't easy to get into a federal agency. It's not like the locations were secret, but you needed a badge, you had to sign in, get past security guards. How would anyone have gotten a bomb into their office?

"When can I get back inside?" Jacob's tone made it clear that heads would roll if the answer wasn't "Right now."

"Can't say, sir." The bomb tech backed away. Smart move. "You'll have to talk to my supervisor. She's in the command center vehicle on the other side of the building." She pointed with a heavily gloved hand and then walked in that direction.

"I'll come with you." Dale clapped a hand on Jacob's shoulder. "We'll get to the bottom of this." He turned to Faith. "I suggest you go visit the scenes. There's nothing you can do here at the moment. I'll stay in touch."

Faith fumed as she wound her way back to her car. Nothing she could do? The whole office was on lockdown and could still be in the crosshairs of a killer, and she'd been dismissed from the action.

She slid behind the steering wheel and restarted the GPS directions to Jared Smith's home.


This excerpt ends on page 22 of the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book The Shell Collector by Nancy Naigle.
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