Excerpt from Chapter 1
“Agent Fisher.” I had answered without checking the caller ID, but the ensuing silence on the other end of the line had me pulling back the phone and consulting it now.
SANTA CLARITA V.
That tells me nothing…
“Hello? This is Special Agent Brandon Fisher. Can I help you?” I looked for Zach, but he was gone again.
There was no verbal response on the other end of the line, but I heard a distinct exhale, followed by more deep breaths.
Santa Clarita… Where was that? It sounded Californian.
And I knew only one person in California.
There was a jagged intake of breath. A sob, maybe?
“Oh God, Brandon.” It was Paige, and she was definitely crying. And Paige didn’t cry. I’d witnessed the odd tear fall when our relationship had ended, but this was different. Something was very wrong.
I leaned on my desk and looked around, but no one was nearby.
“What’s going on? Are you okay?” I asked. I gave her a few seconds to respond. She didn’t. “Where’s Sam? Is he okay? Talk to me, Paige.”
“Shh. I don’t want everyone to know.”
“What’s going on?” I was starting to get annoyed that she was avoiding my question. She was the one who had called me.
“I’m in trouble,” she began. “Big trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“I’m in…jail,” she ground out.
Her words struck me as a physical blow. I even stopped breathing for a second. I sank back into my chair. “You’re what?”
“There’s been a misunderstanding is all.”
I’d hope so…
“Where is Sam?” I asked again.
“Please, Brandon, don’t tell Jack or Zach.”
Another aversion tactic. “I don’t know much to tell.” My concern for her was quickly morphing into irritation. “Where’s Sam?” I repeated a third time. Maybe I should record myself and just hit “play.”
Another deep exhale into the receiver.
“Talk to me,” I entreated.
“He doesn’t know.”
“What? How can he not know you were—”
“Shh! I can’t explain everything over the phone. I need you to get me a good defense attorney and send him to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Have them ask for Detective Grafton or Mendez.”
A good defense attorney?
“What are you suspected of?”
“I don’t want—”
“You called me, remember?”
She sighed. “Something I might be regretting…”
“I’m sorry, but you asked me to get you—”
Jack came up next to my desk. He ran a hand along his throat, indicating my call needed to end. Now. And based on the way he was staring me down, refusing him wasn’t an option.
“Where’s Zach?” he asked.
“God, is that Jack?” Paige whispered. “Brandon, you can’t say a—”
I cupped the receiver portion of my cell phone and held it away from my ear. “He’ll be back,” I told Jack. “He probably just went to the bathroom.”
“Hang up,” Jack demanded. He never tolerated personal calls on the job, but this was going overboard. Besides, this particular one wasn’t personal. Or was it?
And why did Paige call me and not Sam? Was it just that I was familiar, or did she not want to give the new guy a bad impression? I dismissed the idea of her still harboring feelings for me before I even considered it, but whatever it was, I wasn’t sure I was completely comfortable with it.
I got up from my chair and walked away from Jack, taking my cell phone with me. I had it pressed to my ear again and could tell Paige was still on the line. I could feel Jack’s eyes watching me, but so far, he wasn’t following.
“I will do what you asked,” I said into the receiver, “but it would help to know what you’re…you know.” I didn’t want to say being charged with, seeing as Jack was still within earshot.
“I don’t want to get into it with you, Brandon. Hell, I probably shouldn’t have even called you. I just thought I could trust you.”
“You can.” The words had come out of their own volition.
“Thank you. I just need a defense attorney who is good at getting the innocent off—” Someone spoke to her in the background. “Yes, I know… Fine,” she said, her voice muffled, probably from her hand over the receiver. Then back to me. “I’ve got to go.”
“I’ll get you someone.”
“Remember, Detective Graft—”
“Grafton and Mendez. I got it.”
“One more thing, Brandon. Please let Sam know I’m okay.”
“And what about the part where you were…” I couldn’t elaborate as Jack was now literally breathing down my neck.
“You can’t tell him I’ve been arrested.”
“Can I trust you or not?” she asked impatiently.
I nodded even though she couldn’t see it. “You can.”
“Sam’s at the Hyatt Regency, room 328.” Then she hung up. With the conversation over, I was left to face Jack, and based on his epic scowl, I was going to have explain why I didn’t hang up the second he had told me to.
“I need to make another phone call,” I said.
“Not right now you don’t,” Jack replied.
Zach came back to his desk, a confused look on his face when he saw the two of us, and Jack gestured for us to follow him into his office.
I was pacing in front of Jack’s door, not wanting to go in because I needed to get Paige that lawyer ASAP.
Jack gripped my shoulder with a firm hand. “Go inside.”
“Uh, yeah. On it.” I pressed on a smile and went into his office.
Jack shut the door and didn’t bother to take a seat. Neither did Zach or I, but the two of us kept looking at each other for a clue as to what this was about.
“Paige has been brought in as a murder suspect.” Jack delivered the statement as if it were any other case—direct, punchy, and succinct.
I swallowed roughly, my throat so dry I wondered if my mouth was even producing any saliva. I sought out one of the chairs that were positioned in front of Jack’s desk.
Jack’s gaze followed me until I sat down. “That was Paige on the phone with you, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I choked out.
His jaw tightened. He shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what he was referring to—Paige’s arrest or my consorting with the…enemy?
Jack closed his eyes. “She just couldn’t leave it alone.”
“Leave what alone?” Zach asked.
Jack let out a heaving sigh, met my eyes, and then turned for the door. “Come on, we’re going to California. I’ll explain on the plane.”